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Steve Browne wearing the special union flag West Perth jumped in last Saturday s clash against Subiaco.
Steve Browne wearing the special union flag West Perth jumped in last Saturday's clash against Subiaco.

The AFL will quiz West Perth district manager Andrew Ridley about last Saturday's international round which drew a record 6044 fans to Arena Joondalup for the match against Subiaco.

The national league was astounded at the response to a club venture recognising a strong British influence in the district that produced the second biggest WAFL crowd of the season.

And the AFL told the Falcons that it hopes to learn some lessons from the initiative to help drive its own marketing strategy.

Yet there was no secret formula behind West Perth's ability to attract the fourth biggest crowd to Arena Joondalup in nearly two decades and the best-ever not involving arch rivals East Perth.

West Perth had a simple idea and married it to an energetic promotional campaign that saw the club wear a special Union Jack jumper against Subiaco and invite every child in the district to the match.

"This shows that the WAFL is alive and well but you have to give people a reason to go to matches," West Perth president Brett Raponi said. "We spent several weeks going to the 65 schools in our area, we had strong support from the local media in the northern suburbs and we were certainly blessed with good weather on the day.

"One thing is clear though - people don't just turn up because a game is on but they will if there is an effort made to get them through the gates."

One of West Perth's biggest challenges is getting the State's most diverse multicultural group and fastest growing migrant popu- lation to embrace football.

Ridley manages a zone from Hillarys to Two Rocks where 61 per cent of residents were either born overseas or have a parent who was.

And the British presence is the most prominent, with nearly a third of the population either born there or a first generation local.

That is part of the reason that West Perth, with just 10.5 per cent, has the WAFL's lowest percentage of boys aged 13-18 playing football.

Yet there is a strong growth trend in younger groups with 38 per cent of all five to eight-year-old boys playing football last year, behind only Claremont and Perth.

Raponi believed the success of the international round would help highlight and grow the game in the district, and he was supported by WA Football Commission competitions director Grant Dorrington.

"There are strong British pockets in places like Rockingham and Armadale where this sort of exposure might work," Dorrington said.

"This has been a sensational result for West Perth and the WAFL.

"It doesn't have to just be about a British presence though the red and blue and white is a natural fit, just as it is with Central District in the SANFL which has a strong British support base.

"If our clubs can find ways to relate to their communities, it will strengthen them and the sport."

West Perth had a mostly positive response to their Union Jack theme with club stalwart Wally Price, who held the WAFL games record of 256 at the time of his retirement, urging the entire community to embrace the concept.

"I am now 86 but I was not much different to the kids living up past Joondalup now," he said.

"My parents were 10-pound Poms and came here on a ship.

"I embraced this game as a kid of English parents and our local district migrants will too."