New Participation Manager at AFLQ smashing records

New AFL Queensland Participation Manager Mark Handley has hit the ground running, smashing community Auskick and Superstars records in the first half of the year.  

Currently, there are more than 20,000 kids registered to play Auskick across Queensland and Northern New South Wales in schools and clubs, including almost 6000 girls and over 14,000 boys. 

Last month AFLQ reached record community Auskick participation, with almost 7,000 of the total number of Auskickers signing up to play at their local clubs. AFLQ also has the highest percentage of female Auskick participation in the country with more than 30 per cent of total Auskick participants being girls. There are also more than 150 participants in ALL Play Auskick for all abilities.  

More kids than ever are enjoying the first weeks of the Superstars program with total registrations currently up by almost 80 per cent with more than 2,450 kids playing with participant numbers still climbing. 

Handley said it was great to see the numbers growing so early in the year.  

“It’s fantastic coming into a role seeing the strong base Aussie Rules in Queensland has, we are motivated to keep the momentum going,” he said.  

He joined AFL Queensland (AFLQ) at the start of this year with an extensive background in Tennis as Head of Participation and CEO of Tennis Queensland and Tennis Tasmania. Growing up in Victoria, Handley said he always had a passion for Australian Football.  

“My dad played football so some of my earliest memories are of kicking the footy in the backyard with him,” he said.  

Now his focus is driving participation growth in Queensland across Auskick, School Programs and Competitions, Inclusion and Diversity Programs while ultimately transitioning these participants into a Community Football environment.

“Balancing the quality with quantity and strengthening the base whilst securing the future will be important” he said.  

“A key driver of player recruitment and retention is creating quality environments where players and families are learning new skills, meeting new people and most of all, having fun.”

There will be more than 30,000 Queensland students participating in AFLQ school competitions across the state this year with a record number of teams taking part in the StreetSmarts AFLQ Schools Cup.  

“We’re committed to building our school networks, closing the gender gap between boys and girls participation and encouraging more girls to play while also growing our pathways across our inclusion, diversity and multicultural programs,” Handley said.

Handley said it was important AFLQ continued to make Australian Football inclusive and accessible for all and representative of our community, with several successful programs being rolled out, including Connecting Through Sport (CTS) – a Federal and State funded program for people of diverse backgrounds, newly settled families, young children and women which has had almost 4,000 participants since it started in 2021, the Bachar Houli Cup which provides a pathway for students from diverse backgrounds into Australian Rules (12 schools with 500 participants), the Diversity Umpire Program which has seen more than 80 participants since 2021 and Wheelchair AFL which has gone from strength to strength since its first year of competition in Queensland in 2022.

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