For all the shortcomings of the AFL – and lord, does it ever have more than a few of those – one of the things it’s managed to consistently do well is promote itself, while highlighting the pockets of the game that truly make our weird native ball sport something quite special indeed.
This season, the AFL’s ad campaign is focusing on what it labels “The Nevers“: Things previously thought impossible like racial and religious inclusion in the game (or, y’know, a Richmond premiership) that are now an every day reality.
The league launched their season campaign late last week, and uploaded three long-form ads to their social channels earlier today, each one focusing on a different story; all of which are mightily incredible, and all of which stir up strong emotions.
Firstly, the remarkable story of Aliir Alirr, the first Sudanese player to be taken in the AFL Draft. The clip tracks Aliir’s life from his birth in a refugee camp in Kenya, right through to being drafted by the Sydney Swans and being welcomed into that fold.
Secondly, the story of Dema, a young Muslim girl from Bankstown introduced to the sport via her PE teacher, and her father’s struggles to reconcile the physical aspects of the game with his own religious beliefs and worries as a father.
Lastly, a story that played out on screens across last season: The long-awaited rise of the Richmond Football Club from long-suffering misery to Premiership glory, but more importantly it’s the story of coach Damian Hardwick‘s professional and personal redemption which shines through in this ad.
They’re all incredibly touching, moving stories that celebrate not only the on-field stuff, but the lesser known and seldom seen off-field effects the game can have; the potential this weird, insane, glorious sport has to change lives.
It’s a beautiful game, this one of ours. And those clips capture it magnificently.