A FRESH twist on AFL

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Hip-hop artist L-FRESH The LION talks about all things Aussie rules

How do you explain a game of AFL to someone who’s never seen it before?

“It’s definitely easier to sit down and watch a game with them,” says hip-hop artist L-FRESH The LION, laughing. “Otherwise it just sounds like chaos.”

FRESH The LION.Indian Link

An Australian Sikh youth icon L-FRESH The LION has recently come on board as a Community Ambassador for the AFL, helping to introduce the game to Indian kids in Western Sydney.

AFL, or the Australian Football League, is the professional competition in the sport of Australian rules or ‘Aussie rules’ football.

“There are these moments of free-flowing beauty in the game that are hard to communicate across the internet or in a phone call,” L-FRESH continues. “It’s about teaching people the objective, how points are scored, and seeing how much fun it can be.”

L-FRESH The LION’s connection to AFL started back in his late primary school years. “I was a big fan of the Sydney Swans,” he reveals. “My favourite player was Michael O’Loughlin. He had this calm, collected feel and was a cool player to watch.”

But being from Western Sydney himself, “Now my allegiances have shifted!”

L-FRESH continues, “Now there’s a Western Sydney team, The Giants, I have to jump on the bandwagon! I respect the values the team represents, their connection to the community and I’m really enjoying being a part of their growth and journey. I have to watch and wait to pick a favourite, though.”

After the 2015 controversy surrounding racism in the sport, L-FRESH says the AFL administration has been working hard to build a more inclusive culture, and it seems he will be a role model for this new approach. “The AFL has been very proactive in engaging with different communities throughout Australia,” he says. “Sport has a great capacity to bring people together. When you’re out on the field, where you’re from is not of consequence, it’s about playing the game. It’s an exciting time to be involved and be leading the way, being able to set the tone for other codes and sectors of society about respect.”

L-FRESH the LION.Indian Link
(L-R) Bachar Houli of the Tigers, Stephen Coniglio of the Giants, Paul Puopolo of the Hawks, Alipate Carlile of the Power, David Zaharakis of the Bombers, Nic Naitanui of the Eagles, James Aish of the Lions, Patrick Karnezis of the Magpies and Jobe Watson of the Bombers, Australia Post AFL Multicultural Ambassador Program press call at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on January 22, 2015. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)

The deep, abiding passion for cricket among many Indians is well known, so what makes AFL an appealing pursuit?

“AFL is a growing sport for the Indian community to access and become a part of,” L-FRESH says. “The only time I played AFL as a kid was with friends, I never really had the opportunities at school to play. There is obviously a huge love of cricket in the Indian community, but it’s important for kids to access whatever they’re interested in. Some might want to play AFL, others might be looking for something different, some other sport. Now there are all these kids in Western Sydney watching and following the game, and I hope to see things change so these kids have the opportunities to play AFL and get more involved in the sport.”

As part of the upcoming Toyota AFL Multicultural Round, the AFL and Greater Western Sydney Giants are hosting the AFL Multicultural Festival on Saturday, July 9 at Cathy Freeman Park, Sydney Olympic Park.

Highlighting the contribution of multicultural communities to the success of the game, the free event will be an opportunity to celebrate the diverse cultures that are able to unite through a shared love of sport.

And of course, L-FRESH The LION will be taking to the stage and bringing along his unique brand of swag. “My performance is all about energy; there’s a lot of activity on stage, a lot of culture in the performance. I’m going to have people from many different backgrounds joining me on stage, there’s even going to be Punjabi Bhangra!” he says. “There’s going to be a lot of movement for the audience – physically, definitely, but also mentally and emotionally.”