AFL VictoriaThe Guardian | Local Australian rules football clubs are paying large amounts of money to secure top players. Some say it’s corrupting the spirit of community sport

Joel Dwyer thought he was lost. It was his first Australian rules football game for a regional Victorian team that was paying him and two mates $700 each a week, and he’d never been to his new home ground. As he drove through Victoria’s flat and desolate north, he saw no sign of a town that could support a football team.

“We drove past two clapped-out buildings and down a gravel road and then you just see the light towers at the footy oval, and that’s the first thing you see,” he says. It was 2016 and the town, which in that year’s census had recorded a population of fewer than 100 people, needed players.

Through a convoluted series of events, including a Contiki tour someone involved with the club did with one of Dwyer’s mates two years earlier, the coach came upon Dwyer’s mobile number.

Dwyer says someone from the team called him up and asked if he would be interested in making the drive north from Melbourne every week, if the price was right? And did he know anyone else who could play?

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