Online coverage heralds new chapter for QAFL

AARON GOODWIN

Weekend warriors have been going into battle for their local Aussie Rules clubs in Queensland since the 1920s. Since then, the state’s AFL competition has moved on in leaps and bounds, and this year is no exception marking, as it does, another milestone in the development of Queensland AFL.

Broadbeach Benji Neal with Palm Beach opponents

Broadbeach’s No.3, Benji Neal (centre), tries to elude two Palm Beach opponents (left and right) during live coverage of their round 15 QAFL match. Photo: Aaron Goodwin

This year the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) began filming the games for Queensland’s premier club level Aussie Rules competition, the QAFL Senior division. All QAFL Senior games in each round are recorded for public viewing online via AFL Queensland’s Vimeo site. In addition, one or two games per round are live streamed with commentary, which can be viewed as the action unfolds on the QAFL Facebook page. Each team in the division will have at least one of their games streamed live.

The coverage is a win-win for QAFL, as it not only gives increased exposure to the sport, but also showcases the talents of players in the QAFL Senior division.

This extended coverage follows in the footsteps of the Victorian Football League (VFL), who have been trendsetters when it comes to the live streaming and recording of semi-professional AFL games. The VFL coverage of these semi-professional games has live game coverage on Channel 7 for Victorian viewers, as well as live-streamed games online. In addition, the VFL has had radio coverage of two games per round on Victorian radio station 3WBC 94.1 FM for more than a decade. It’s early days for the QAFL, but they are making strides to catch up with this greater media presence for QAFL Senior division games.

Budding sports commentator Riley Staraj is part of this new process. Staraj sent a short clip of his commentary style to AFL Queensland and was one of a number of applicants who was given a trial calling a game. He is now one of the commentators chosen to call live QAFL games in the 2018 season.

“It’s a product that’s only started this year, and it’s a very authentic product bringing our local games to a wider audience and bringing exposure to the QAFL,” Staraj said.

QAFL commentators Matt Carroll and Riley Staraj

Newly appointed QAFL commentators Matt Carroll (left) and Riley Staraj gear up to live call the action between Palm Beach and Broadbeach. Photo: Aaron Goodwin

The new coverage of the QAFL has also taken a page out of the North Eastern Australian Football League’s (NEAFL) book. The NEAFL have been streaming games online for several years, which gives them the opportunity to show off the talent that exists in the reserve grades of AFL teams such as the Brisbane Lions, the Gold Coast Suns, the Greater Western Sydney Giants and the Sydney Swans.

QAFL competition manager Christopher Davies said when discussions were first held in spring 2017 about streaming QAFL games, the main goal was quality.

“We didn’t set ourselves any goals in terms of numbers, it was about whatever we did, we do it properly and that it looked professional,” Davies said.

According to Davies, an average of between 1500 and 2000 people tune in each week to watch the QAFL’s live-streamed game. Although this figure doesn’t account for how long people watch the game, it shows a public interest in semi-professional Queensland AFL.

Getting the QAFL coverage up and running hasn’t been without challenges, particularly in terms of the logistical and technical aspects of the coverage.

“We’ve had our technical challenges to start with in learning the new system that we use to upload our videos and unfortunately once it wouldn’t stream,” Davies said.

“Aside from that it’s all been relatively good,” he said.

Those in the inner sanctum of the QAFL broadcasting, like QAFL caller Matt Carroll, have had nothing but praise for the technical team behind the streaming.

“All that I do is clip the microphone to my lapel, that’s it,” Carroll said.

“The tech guys have done a great job.”

Palm Beach’s number 28 Thomas Thynne and Broadbeach’s number 2 Evan Panozza

Palm Beach’s No.28, Thomas Thynne (centre left), wrestles with Broadbeach’s No.2, Evan Panozza (centre right). Photo: Aaron Goodwin

The increased exposure that the game streaming brings the QAFL also assists in opening up talent pathways for all those involved. This includes players, coaches and commentators alike.

For Riley Staraj, it has always been a goal to call AFL at the highest level. Riley said he believed strongly that calling QAFL games for the foreseeable future was the best avenue to develop his commentary career.

“This is the best stepping stone you can get, because it’s such a niche industry,” Staraj said

“You need practical experience and you can’t get a better opportunity than this, calling the QAFL.”

With more eyes than ever on QAFL games, opportunities are also there for players aspiring to reach the highest levels. In fact, the pathway may now be easier than ever before thanks to the extended coverage of the QAFL.

Mt Gravatt senior coach Daniel Webster said he believed the streaming of QAFL games was a great tool that might help his players get picked up by the higher leagues around the nation.

“The streaming helps recruitment on the basis that more people actually get to watch the games,” Webster said.

“So, if a recruiter or someone from interstate wanted to watch a replay of a player’s game they just need to jump on the AFLQ website.”

“From that perspective, it’s definitely a good tool for recruitment.”

Perhaps those most excited about all this coverage are the players running around the paddock on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The current crop of QAFL players have more recruitment opportunities than their counterparts from previous years, which is likely to offer extra motivation for players looking to impress and move up the AFL ranks.

Mt Gravatt QAFL senior player James Markham said having more spectators online gives players another reason to play better. On the flip side for players are their nerves before they play, and James claims that it plays on the mind on some of his teammates.

“Rhys Estall, among others, can get nervous when a lot of people are watching, especially with the games being streamed nowadays,” Markham said.

“It also gives more reason to play better.”

AFL Queensland has plans to extend its coverage to allow more QAFL Senior division matches to be broadcast live with commentary.

“We probably will look to extend the live stream to every game in time,” Davies said.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of challenges that come with streaming every game live each round, along with incorporating more pre-game and post-game content,” he said.

To culminate a significant 2018 for Queensland Aussie Rules, the QAFL alongside AFL Queensland will also be live streaming all QAFL finals matches in September. Head to the QAFL Facebook page for more information on how to view QAFL matches throughout the finals series.

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