AS THE judges sift through the #FootyFocus21 entries in preparation for the announcement of the winner on 30 September, the depth of photographic talent and storytelling is clear.
Check out some of our favourites from this year’s rich crop of entries, and share in the joy our great game brings to the community, both near and far.
Photographer: Maya Thompson
We begin with Year 11 Sacred Heart student Tyson Coe’s reaction to his amazing shot on goal from the pocket that narrowly missed, much to the shock of the crowd and to Tyson himself.
This heart-in-the-mouth snap was taken at Sacred Heart’s 98th intercollegiate round against cross-town rival Rostrevor College in Adelaide, South Australia. It is the largest game of the year, where supporters from the two sides even have to be separated onto opposite ends of the pitch.
Photographer: Blake Parry
Over at the Swan Districts Football Club, participants contest a ball wrapped in a possum skin during the halftime break of a match during NAIDOC Round.
This club has a strong focus on Indigenous involvement and participation. The local kids in this part of Western Australia are encouraged to play demonstration games where no scores are kept and the focus is on having fun.
Photographer: Robert Brewer
On a quick trip overseas, the Indochina Cup is a one-day round-robin tournament played amongst teams from Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos PDR.
Here, the Thailand Tigers warm up amongst the banana trees ahead of their match against the Vietnam Swans. There must be something in this particular warm up method, as the Tigers went on to win the tournament.
Photographer: Bort Edwards
Landing Stateside, we witness Sam Grossman - a first-year American player for the DC Eagles- training in front of the world-famous Capitol Building in Washington D.C.
Photographer Bort Edwards reflects: "One of the joys about playing over here is that most of our team are Americans who have never played before. We get to watch people learn, take on, and fall in love with the game for the first time; experiencing those "aha!" moments that many Aussies take for granted or have forgotten way back when. It is genuinely wonderful."
Photographer: Paul Costello
Back on home turf, this cracker of an image was taken at Malabar AFL Oval, home of the East Sydney Bulldogs in New South Wales. 13-year-old Jazlyn Morgan bravely trains in the elements one July afternoon.
Photographer: Will Tatchell
Time to take a breath. This is the most pleasant view looking down towards Mount Pleasant Football Ground, home to the Mounties in the Oatlands District Football Association in Tasmania.
The ground sits in the middle of prime agricultural land, with the nearest town a 20-minute drive away via dirt roads. The ground itself is nestled underneath a sugarloaf hill, with a stunning view from behind the goals up high on the mound. Photographer Will couldn’t resist the inviting wander up with the locals to get a different perspective on the game.
Photographer: Craig Slaney
We now arrive in the rooms on the final day of the Queensland AFL Inclusion Carnival held in Noosa Heads, just in time to celebrate.
There are currently three men’s teams in South East Queensland - the Noosa Tigers, Yeronga South Brisbane and the Surfers Paradise Demons. The clubs are all hoping to establish women’s teams too.
“This is a great way for everyone to play a game of football. While all on the team are mates, this doesn’t stop them from being physical and competitive during the game!” says photographer Craig.
Photographer: Erin Scaresbrook
Finally, we’re introduced to Mardy McDonald. He’s 18 years old, 201cm tall and was recently called up to play his first-ever senior’s game for the mighty Mallee Eagles in the Central Murray Football Netball League.
During the game, Mardy marked the ball inside 50 and his big chance to kick his first senior goal had arrived. He was excited, because not only was he playing his first senior match, but he was also playing alongside his older brother Andrew.
Nerves might have gotten the better of him on this occasion, as Mardy ended up missing the goal. After sailing in for a behind, the ball then kept on travelling, finally landing on Mardy’s dear Granny's car that was parked directly behind the goals, where it smashed her windscreen.
Thankfully, snapper Erin was on hand to capture this historic moment and Mardy was quick to apologise to Granny. He also went on to kick a goal later in the match without hitting any other cars in the process.
This is one that will undoubtedly go down in Mallee folklore, just like countless other club stories are shared, not only around Australia but also beyond our shores.
Do you have your own community footy photo to share? Enter #FootyFocus21 here for your chance to shoot with AFL Chief Photographer Michael Willson