The Sydney Swans have announced plans to host a groundbreaking China-themed match at the SCG later this month.
The round 15 match against the West Coast Eagles aims to celebrate Chinese traditions and foster inclusivity of AFL among the Chinese-Australian community, with 2500 tickets allocated to Universities Australia for distribution.
These tickets are expected to provide an opportunity for international students who may not have previously experienced an AFL match to witness the excitement firsthand.
The move comes after Port Adelaide moved three home games to China prior to Covid before the pandemic put a stop to those matches.
Distinguished guests, including prominent Chinese and Australian government officials as well as influential business figures, are expected to attend.
AFL CEO-elect Andrew Dillon, Federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy of Australia Chris Bowen and NSW Premier Chris Minns will be in attendance for a pre-game luncheon, festivities and the match itself.
Chinese ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian will be one of the dignatories attending a luncheon, pre-match events and the game itself between Sydney and West Coast
AFL fans will be treated to a range of traditional Chinese celebrations including a dragon dance on the SCG
Port Adelaide played three annual AFL matches for competition points in China before Covid put an end to that
They will be joined by China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, consul general in Sydney Zhou Limin and senior Chinese-Australian business and trade figures.
As part of the pre-game festivities, a traditional dragon dance performance will be held on the field, coinciding with the start of the Dragon Boat Festival on June 22.
The coin toss will be conducted by China’s ambassador to Australia and the AFL will also use the event to launch the book Celestial Footy: the Story of Chinese Heritage Aussie Rules written by Patrick Skene.
The book delves into the lesser-known history of Chinese involvement in Australian rules football, tracing its roots back to Ballarat’s gold fields.
Swans chairman Andrew Pridham expressed the club’s strong desire to showcase the sport to Sydney residents of Chinese heritage, taking into account the significant and ever-growing Chinese population.
The recently released 2021 census results shed light on the cultural diversity of Sydney, with a significant 11.6 per cent of the city’s population identifying Chinese ancestry.
The Swans hope to promote cultural exchange and strengthen the bond between the Chinese-Australian community and Australian Rules football.
‘It’s a significant part of the population,’ Pridham said.
‘We already have very strong following from Chinese origin people, which you’ll see in the crowd.
‘We want to do everything we can to showcase the game to as many Chinese heritage people as we can and welcome them to the club, and give them the opportunity to be part of the Australian Indigenous game.’
The Swans already take part in the annual Marn Grook game that honours and celebrates the rich heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Sydney hosts an annual Mark Grook celebration every year when Carlton comes to town, where Indigenous players and traditions are honoured
Performers dance during the Marn Grook Ceremony before the round 11 AFL match between Sydney Swans and Carlton Blues this year
The Sydney Swans host an annual Pride Game against the St Kilda Saints to raise awareness and promote inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community
The game of Marn Grook originated from the Djawurrung and Jardwadjali clans in Victoria’s Western District and was traditionally played during corroborees.
It is widely believed that this ancient game served as one of the inspirations for the development of Australian Football, shaping it into the sport we recognise today.
Additionally, the Swans participate in the annual Pride Game alongside St Kilda, demonstrating their commitment to promoting inclusivity and supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
‘Having relevantly themed games that support sections of the community are core to our community engagement strategy,’ Pridham said.
‘This is the first one. As always happens with these things, they gain momentum over time. As a club, we’ll be keen to grow and make it a very identifiable game for us.’
Pridham added that the game aimed to bridge the gap between Chinese Australians feeling disengaged with the broader community.
‘It started because a few people thought we should do something to say Chinese are a fundamental part of Australian community and Australian culture,’ Colless said.
‘The challenge was to find something that was quintessentially Australia and see if there was a Chinese connection. Lo and behold, Australian football is the closest thing we’ve got.
‘I think it’s going to lay a platform which will get a fair degree of coverage in different ways through the Chinese Australian communities – and it’s up to the AFL and Swans to take advantage of it.
‘From little acorns, big oak trees grow.’