Off the Wall

The Independent Commission will finally take control of the game from today.

The best that can be said about that it is that it better late than never!

It is a year too late - and it faces an extraordinary list of issues and significant challenges that have been piling up for too long.

In today's "Telegraph" Phil Rothfield lists his top ten priorities for the commission.

Readers of this column will find a remarkable similarity between his list and mine.

There is one issue I would add - and give high priority to.

The IC needs to make an urgent, and frank, assessment of the game at grass roots levels - in the bush, in the regions, and among the feeder clubs right across New South Wales and Queensland.

That assessment is long overdue.

The bush and the regions, and suburban feeder clubs, have been largely neglected for too long.

It is an issue I have been campaigning on for years - especially the state of regional city and town clubs that have been hard hit by rural population decline, and by tough economic conditions.

On the surface the game looks in reasonable shape - and I stress reasonable.

But when you take a closer look there are real areas of concern.

The IC cannot be expected to address all of them overnight.

But it will be off to a good start if it gets a frank assessment of the true state of the game at the grass roots level.

That assessment needs to also look seriously at the impact the AFL expansion, and massive funding, is already having in Western Sydney and the Gold Coast.

I am hearing troubling stories that the AFL policy of picking up the tab for junior registration, insurance, and even boots and other gear, is proving to be very effective in recruiting young players.

The IC faces daunting challenges.

Meeting them will surely be advantaged by a frank report on the state of the game where it is so dependent on for its future.

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