Getting the AFL spirit across to Hong Kong

Hong Kong Dragons Australian Rules Football Club

Hong Kong Dragons Australian Rules Football Club

Justin Barbaro has helped spur a vibrant footy scene in Hong Kong through his involvement with the Hong Kong Dragons Australian Rules Football Club (“Dragons") since 2009. 

As President,  Justin focuses on stakeholder communication and member engagement to maximize the outreach of AFL football in the city.

The unique Australian sport - combining rugby, soccer and Gaelic football using an egg-shaped ball which requires good handwork, footwork and hand-eye coordination - has received increased recognition in Hong Kong, thanks to the hard work and dedication of Justin, as well as the Dragons team who went all out to encourage the city to participate in the AFL spirit since its establishment in 1990. 

Justin recently spoke with Advance and shared his professional experience at the Dragons. 

What does your current role involve on a day-to-day basis? 

The role mainly involves being the main point of contact for communication. I deal with sponsors, new members and other club presidents within Asia to name a few. 

In addition, the other major component of the president role is to liaise between the different departments within the committee (Ground Bookings, Tours, Communications and Social Functions, etc.) Thankfully we have a large committee who work very hard to get the job done. 

How do you build momentum on your teams and in the organisation?

I wish I could say I knew the secret ingredient. We have a number of social initiatives which are always great fun but meet with varying success. If I had to choose what’s been the most important factor in building momentum, it’s having a very welcoming, no-pressure, social culture. 

Do you think Hong Kong’s attitude to sport is improving?

Hong Kong has always held a terrific attitude towards sports, evident in our mission statement shown below. 

“Established in 1990, the Hong Kong Dragons Australian Rules Football Club is a non-profit amateur sports team aimed at providing an environment for participants to enjoy the game at any skill level.  Goals of the club include promoting the AFL code throughout the region and also to provide coaching and training to participants of any age, background and fitness level” 

Whilst the attitude of being open minded and welcoming has always been prevalent it is only in recent years that we have gained traction with local development and in more recent times AFL Women’s - an achievement that I, and the committee are extremely proud of. 

How do you encourage more children to play football?

Hong Kong has its own branch of Auskick which deals with the lower age groups. Though we have common events regularly, Auskick are the main point of contact for developing kids football in HK. To date I believe they have approximately 400 kids playing. 

What do you enjoy most in your role?

For me, it’s the sense of community the club has that gives the most enjoyment. The role certainly has its challenges, but the reward comes when seeing all of our members together enjoying a kick on a beautiful day with the epic backdrop of Hong Kong. In other words; good friends, a kick of footy and a few drinks. A recipe I believe works the world over. 

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