It's official, 125,000 young Auskickers across the country have pulled on their boots this season to break the all-time registered participation record for the NAB AFL Auskick program.
Eclipsing the previous record of 123,475 which was set in 2019, every state improved on last season's numbers, resulting in an overall participation growth of 13 per cent from 2022.
This figure could jump even higher before the season officially closes on October 31.
Queensland has seen the most significant rise in participants from any state since the previous record was set in 2019, with a healthy boost of 45 per cent, bringing the total number of Auskickers to more than 30,000.
As the women's game continues to grow ahead of the eighth AFLW season kicking off next week, there has also been a nation-wide increase of 25 per cent of young girls picking up a footy to learn new skills and have fun. Overall, national participation for girls is 24.6 per cent, with Queensland and New South Wales/ACT leading the charge. Their total number of female Auskickers makes up 31 and 30 per cent, respectively.
In Victoria, Benalla Auskick Centre has the largest girls-only group in the state with 56 girls currently involved in the program and in South Barwon, there's been a 48 per cent increase in female participation since 2022.
Playford College – an Islamic school in South Australia – has seen a leap of more than 140 per cent in Auskickers as the program becomes the start of a footy pathway to represent the school at The Bachour Houli Cup, while on King Island in Tasmania, their centre continues to thrive every Saturday morning as the community comes together for its weekly footy fix.
The popularity and inclusivity of Australian Rules Football throughout communities was also highlighted in the record-breaking year with almost a quarter of all participants in 2023 having a parent born overseas and five per cent identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
The success of the 2023 NAB AFL Auskick season coincides with a number of new initiatives launched this year for the program including the inaugural Team NAB AFL Auskick competition – an evolution of the NAB Auskicker of the Year competition – and all-girls Auskick sessions, which are currently open for registrations in Victoria.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan congratulated everyone involved in breaking the record.
"This is an enormous milestone for NAB AFL Auskick and I'd like to thank each and every Auskicker and their family for signing up this year and being part of our footy community," McLachlan said.
"We love seeing the joy this program brings to children across the country as they pull on their favourite footy colours and join friends at their local centre – footy at that age is all about having fun and experiencing Aussie Rules for the first time.
"I'd like to thank NAB Group CEO, Ross McEwan, and his team at NAB for their continued support of Auskick, their invaluable investment plays a vital role in the success of the program."
AFL Executive General Manager for Game Development, Rob Auld, said the new initiatives introduced this season were contributing to the record result.
"Setting a new participation record for registered NAB AFL Auskickers is a huge achievement and I'd like to thank everyone whose dedication and passion for this program has made this new milestone possible," Auld said.
"To see the number of young Auskickers increase nationally across every state from last season, especially within those areas touted as traditional rugby league territory, is a remarkable result and speaks to all the hard work being carried out by the AFL and our states and territories.
"Giving families more options this season to attend clinics after school rather than the traditional Saturday and Sunday mornings has provided more flexibility to parents juggling busy schedules, and we've been able to put more structure nationally around the rollout of all-girls Auskick sessions.
"The growth we're seeing in young girls pulling on their boots and the reach we're gaining in culturally diverse communities, puts us another step closer to achieving our goal of having footy in every home in Australia."
NAB Group CEO Ross McEwan said:
"It's great to see NAB's partnership with the AFL Auskick program kicking goals, with a record number of kids taking to the field this year.
"Communities are built when kids and families come together at their local footy ovals. NAB's partnership with AFL Auskick is about supporting this next generation of players, coaches, and volunteers.
"We've broken two records this year after almost 2,000 Auskickers entered the Team NAB AFL Auskick competition. With NAB's support, 23 lucky kids will join their heroes running out onto the MCG to present them their medals on 2023 Toyota AFL Grand Final Day."