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AFL expansion to continue?

  • Sunday, July 10 2005 @ 02:52 am ACST
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General News

Although slightly off the topic of international Aussie Rules, the AFL's plans for expanding the game in Australia play a role in their global vision. Overall the AFL has downplayed its international ambitions, making it clear that the states of New South Wales and Queensland are its priorities in the short to medium term. As such it is very much relevant to international footy that Australian Rules continues its successful push into those states, ultimately generating more resources, and freeing up existing ones, for global development.

Growing the Aussie Rules base in Australia ensures that the game has a healthy future from which to assist international development. Furthermore, the greater the numbers involved in Australia, the more support international leagues will find within Australia, and a greater percentage of future expatriate Australians who will have the passion for the game to get involved when overseas.

From this point of view it is very pleasing to see that the AFL is positioning itself to take advantage of the rapid population growth that continues in south-east Queensland. With millions of dollars being poured into developing footy in the state, it seems obvious to locate a second Queensland club in the Gold Coast region. Although there is no public timetable to have an AFL club based there, the AFL has moved to ensure that Carrara Oval is available for top level footy. Formerly the home of the Brisbane Bears/Lions, before their move to the Gabba ground in Brisbane itself, the Gold Coast facility would be the obvious venue for a future south east Queensland side. It appeared possible that the oval would be lost to the game, as the Gold Coast City Council were considering re-developing it into a rectangular configuration to suit sports such as Rugby League and Union. The AFL has now offered to contribute AU$1 million to bring the stadium up to AFL standard, and is planning on scheduling several games per year there. It is clear that the Gold Coast City Council expect that a future AFL club is likely. Whether that will be with a new licence being offered, or a relocation of an existing club, remains to be seen. Given the AFL's public relations disaster when Brisbane and Fitzroy merged, it's extremely unlikely that any club would be forced into a move, so a new licence or a lifeline of a re-location are the best bets.

Adding to the urgency of the "battle for SE Queensland" is the recent announcement by the Australian National Rugby League that the Gold Coast will join the NRL in 2007. With a population divided in loyalties, having a national competition team located there will draw a lot of fans, so the AFL may need to act quickly to capitalise on its investments. The Gold Coast's bid defeated those from NSW's Central Coast and Wellington in New Zealand. The team is expected to play at Carrara until a new 25,000-seat ground is built in nearby Robina, around 2008.