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Made in Australia, loved by the world

Majak Daw of the Kangaroos and Nic Naitanui of the Eagles.

Majak Daw of the Kangaroos and Nic Naitanui of the Eagles. Photo: Getty Images

Footy takes all shapes and sizes to play and, more evidently in recent times, players can come from all sorts of diverse cultures. The beauty of it is that it's accessible for all who want to play. It's not an elitist sport or discriminatory.

The AFL is making greater allowances for clubs to add players from different backgrounds to their lists.

Clubs can have international rookies but maybe this can be expanded with each club able to have two or three spots that can only be allocated to players that have only recently come to Australia.

Maybe the AFL could set up elite development squads for these kids that show promise, or provide specialist coaching to help them to progress quickly.

The possibilities if we can make this happen are widespread. Not only would it grow the talent base of the game, but whenever people from different cultures interact it brings society closer together and creates greater understanding. That can only be a positive.

The AFL and local football clubs and its volunteers do a great job at Auskick clinics and junior programs but the question remains over how do we transition these young kids into future stars of the game or at least AFL fans like all of us?

If you want to play there is a footy club near you and always wanting more numbers.

I put up my hand up and admit I got caught up in the fervour surrounding last Friday's game between the Eagles and the Kangaroos. Why?

Well, it was the prospect of watching two of the most exciting, young and athletic players in our game in Majak Daw and Nic Naitanui going head-to-head. It had highlight reel written all over it.

How great was it that a sport which is purely Australian has two of its lead actors from Sudan and Fiji featuring in its key television spot on a Friday night?

Like many football lovers I admire and are amazed at the skills, creativity and flair that the indigenous players bring to the game. It also makes you mentally scan your own club's list and think of the many unique names and backgrounds players come from.

The Polish power forward from Geelong in James Podsiadly. The Bulldogs rookie Lin Jong became the first player of Taiwanese and East Timorese decent to play an AFL game, and let's not forget the impact the Irish boys in Pearce Hanley, Zac Tuohy and many more are having on our game.

It makes you think we have the Australia's game being played by the world.

Where to next? South Africa is similar in its mindset with sport to Australia, fiercely competitive in anything it takes up could be the next hot spot for future draft or rookie picks. The numbers of participants has been booming through the hard work of the AFL development programs.

Maybe in 10 to 15 years time, as a result of that first game for premiership points at “The Cake Tin" in Wellington, New Zealand, we might see an influx of Kiwi born AFL stars.

As good as we have been in unearthing talent from abroad and from the regular suburbs and footballing factories as Brian Taylor loves to call them, there is abundance of untapped talent still out there.

Most of it is in our major cities such as Melbourne and Sydney. Here's a fact for you. There is a high school in western Sydney that has 1600 students where 68 different languages are spoken other than English at home. In greater Melbourne, 29 per cent of people speak a language other than English at home.

Using basketball as an example, the boom in the NBA came when Yao Ming was drafted to the Houston Rockets, so much so the weight of Chinese voters helped him be picked for consecutive All- Star games even though he didn't play a game due to injury.

Then there was "LinSanity", about Jeremy Lin of the then New York Knicks.

There is a great challenge and opportunity for us as a sport is to continue to capture new generations of people from different cultures. It sounds easy but it will take time. This isn't a short-term issue.

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