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Saturday, December 20 2014 @ 01:36 AM ACDT

First internationally staged AFL Premiership Game bound for NZ?

Oceania

The prospect of the first AFL home-and-away game played outside Australia could become a reality as early as next season, with St Kilda reportedly pushing to play up to four games a season in New Zealand.

The Saints on their website confirm this possibility “The St Kilda Football Club is in preliminary discussions with the AFL about the expansion of the game in New Zealand and the role the Saints may play. With the recent inclusion of AFL as a sanctioned sport in schools in New Zealand, the Saints would like to develop the game further through engagement with the community. The Saints also see an opportunity to build player talent pathways for local talent to play AFL and potentially play games for Premiership points in Wellington in the future. The Wellington Stadium, affectionately known to Kiwis as “The Cake Tin” is an excellent venue.

Having personally had the opportunity to be involved in all 3 pre-season games played in Wellington, firstly at the iconic Basin Reserve and followed by two matches at the Stadium I can only applaud this initiative and state that in all respects it is a wonderful surface and arena for AFL football. It is well and truly time for a truly meaningful game to be played in New Zealand. The opportunity for the Saints to play the legendary football thinker Kevin Sheedy’s Greater Western Sydney Giants on Anzac Day should excite both footy fanatics and interested observers equally.
 

Given that GWS are likely to play in front of about 10,000 spectators in their first year at home I would think that there is the likelihood of at least that many coming through the gates in Wellington. This appears a reasonable estimate given that the pre-season games about a decade ago had crowds of around 6000-8000 from memory.

AFL chief Andrew Demetriou confirmed that St Kilda had met the league's acting game development chief, Andrew Dillon, regarding the New Zealand push, which is understood to have been heavily driven by the Saints' new head of football, Chris Pelchen.

Pelchen was accompanied by St Kilda chief executive Michael Nettlefold and chief operating officer Terry Dillon in a trip to New Zealand in January during the tour by the Australian rules AIS under-18 team. The key Saints trio is believed to have held a series of meetings with Wellington-based stakeholders and toured the stadium.

The New Zealand push would provide one solution to St Kilda's financial woes, partly brought about by its unsatisfactory arrangement with Etihad Stadium. Under the AFL's model for selling home games, the prospect of four home games in Wellington could reap the club an extra $1.5 million a year.

Interestingly Pelchen, who joined the Saints late last season, worked hard to promote a presence in New Zealand during his previous recruiting role at Hawthorn. A New Zealand scholarship scheme was established in the name of Kiwi-born Trent Croad, with the Hawks also launching the junior Auskick-style program Kiwikick. Three of the four New Zealand Hawthorn scholarship holders were chosen by Pelchen, one of whom - Kurt Heatherley - has moved to Melbourne and is doing his VCE at Caulfield Grammar.

Certainly the grounds for such a move as St Kilda are considering making is far more fertile in terms of creating a footy culture as a result of the Hawks’ commitment to developing NZ football. That said, it has never been an arrangement with sole rights to a potential four million plus market for Hawthorn. In some respects it can be likened to North Melbourne moving games to Hobart whilst Hawthorn continues their long term involvement in the north of Tasmania based at Launceston. A piggyback arrangement where initial loyalty in both markets may be Hawthorn's but the resultant development for the AFL Clubs may be shared with others.

While Hawthorn has continued to push both its community and scholarship development across the Tasman, the Hawks have not approached the AFL regarding the prospect of playing matches for premiership points in New Zealand, having signed a new agreement with the Tasmanian government in late 2010.

It seems a lost opportunity in some respects for the Hawks if the Saints grab the initiative but it is understandable given the membership base they already must support in their two key markets of Melbourne and Tasmania. It will not be a lost opportunity however for the AFL code in NZ which has continued to progress systematically since the appointment of the NZ AFL Board (now AFL NZ) in 1998 when the AFL finally started to realise football was played outside of Australia and provided some meaningful assistance.


For more: Saints eye Kiwi matches and St Kilda keen to play AFL at Westpac Stadium

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First internationally staged AFL Premiership Game bound for NZ? | 15 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
First internationally staged AFL Premiership Game bound for NZ?
Authored by: Brett Northey on Tuesday, March 06 2012 @ 10:58 PM ACDT

Things have progressed well in the past and then fallen through.  I really hope this works out, they get 10,000+ and sell some memberships and think hey, there could be a real market here.

I still always wonder why Wellington though.  There just has to be a viable ground in Auckland and I would've thought that is the business and population and expat Aussie centre.  Shoot me down Wellingtonians!

---
Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN
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First internationally staged AFL Premiership Game bound for NZ?
Authored by: Michael Christiansen on Wednesday, March 07 2012 @ 08:40 AM ACDT

I can only presume Auckland to be deemed too much Rugby (League) territory. 

I guess there really are only so many grounds in NZ set up to cater for 10-15,000 crowds that aren't postage stamp rugby fields that make a mockery of cricket!!

Mt Smart would be no good, there's no side line room with the grandstands pretty close to the Rugby field.

North Harbour has a nice oval, but, the main stadium on the field adjoining is too narrow.....once again the whacky kiwis go and plonk the grandstands on the wings!!  Perhaps if they dug up the 'lower grandstand' blocks and reduced capacity back to about 18,000!!

Eden Park might've been the 1950 Empire Games venue - but, you've only got to watch cricket uncomfortably wedged into the ground playing on a 'diamond' to realise it's a hugely compromised venue for oval sports.

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First internationally staged AFL Premiership Game bound for NZ?
Authored by: Rod Shaw on Wednesday, March 07 2012 @ 12:21 PM ACDT

Hi all

I don't think it has anything to do with any other sports' territory. The facts remain that Auckland is the major centre with over 1,000,000 in the region. It is also more of the business centre. For reasons such as this the AFL NZ office and General Manager/CEO have been based in Auckland since before the formation of the NZAFL in 1998.

One of the true first benefits of the formation of the NZAFL was a paid position (lowly) which enabled some work to be done without it being done on a voluntary basis. This was the case previous to 1998 when the old New Zealand Australian Football Council oversaw whatever initiatives that were happening- eg National Provincial Championships and NZ tours and team selection to tournaments such as the Arafura Cup during the 90's. It was a very small group of the most passionate off field drivers doing even more than running their local leagues and clubs in their spare time (joke)

The facts that position Wellington so well are not just its central location within the isles and its place as the nation's capital with a very respectable local population BUT the opportunity of having a paid GM in Will McKenzie, with the support of the inaugural Board,  who was able to get in at the planning stage of the Cake Tin and help sell the vision of AFL football in NZ and the need for a ground to be developed that could actually cater for that.

In my opinion that is why it is Wellington and not Auckland that will likely host the game, despite many other indicators suggesting Auckland should be the long term home. In reality The Basin is a ripper venue being boutique sized similiar to the SCG but off-field it just doesn't adequately cater for the requirements of modern day AFL football.

Rod

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First internationally staged AFL Premiership Game bound for NZ?
Authored by: Brett Northey on Thursday, March 08 2012 @ 11:59 PM ACDT

Gee if Will and NZAFL had that much influence over the design of the stadium back then that's a huge outcome that finally may be yielding the kind of results they would've hoped for.

---
Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN
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First internationally staged AFL Premiership Game bound for NZ?
Authored by: Rory Slater on Friday, March 09 2012 @ 08:03 AM ACDT

Rod

With due respect, what I am about to express you will probably have little or no sympathy for and yes - I have done so many times before however I feeled compelled to do so again to the good community i.e. wfn.

So Wellington has a respectable population and is the capital of NZ.  It would seem that the inferance here is that this is adequate enough criteria to be afforded four games of AFL footy per year!  Quite frankly this is extremely arrogant to my mind.

We have a capital in this country and its called Canberra.  It has a population approx the same as Wellingtons while we have been told ad nauseaum by the AFL over decades of lobbying for recognition by the governing body, that this is not enough to sustain fixtures here let alone an AFL permanent gig.

Canberra actually has a long and proud pedigree in respect of the code, unlike NZ and a powerful symbology not yet realised, exists to have a stand alone side here, as opposed to the expedient scraps i.e. the most recent GWS arrangement we now have in place for just three games per season one of which is a pre season NAB non event, couresy of the AFL.

As a St Kilda supporter since birth and someone who can still tell the the difference between the nurturing and respectful governance of loyal footy heartlands and the cynical commercial bottom line cash grabs that seem to be justification enough in compromising the former these days, the propostion of gifting NZ 4 elite AFL fixtures per year, in the light of what we in the nations capital have endured over many years, is insulting to say the least.

 

 

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First internationally staged AFL Premiership Game bound for NZ?
Authored by: Michael Christiansen on Friday, March 09 2012 @ 03:06 PM ACDT

Rory -

I guess in the perfect world, the ACT would've been nurtured more carefully through the 1980s.  Alas, the old VFL was cash strapped and TV/media was much different then to now; let alone that the VFL had to find some way to morph into an AFL.

Canberra certainly appeared to have been a lost opportunity - but, the Swans in Sydney was a key start and, at very least - as often seen - the drive/flight down from Sydney to Canberra is not seen to be too prohibitive for many Swans fans when the Swannees are 'in town'.

As a long time North fan/member - I made the trek to 'sunny' (but chilly) Canberra once for a game at Manuka.  So, let's not hide from the fact that in the late '90s North Melb were playing 3 games a year there......sadly, Norths' attention wandered seemingly aimlessly across Canberra, Sydney and Gold Coast - - so, I think we can all identify careful/patient nurturing vs cash grabs.

That said then - the 'nurturing' that Hawthorn has embarked on in NZ looks to be of the non-cash grabbing sort.  That Chris Pelchen sees the opportunity in NZ to go where Hawthorn pretty well can't - whilst the Hawks Tassie engagement remains - is of course ironic given that St Kilda has the opportunity at one point to engage more in Tasmania!!!  Obviously Pelchen wasn't there then.

For now too - given the zonal carve up of NSW-ACT b/w Swans and Giants - NSW and Canberra are out of reach now - and the reality now is that for an AFL club with a genuine interest in a form of 'zonal/academy' work - the international scholarship is the primary opening, esp now that the NSW scholarship scheme is basically a thing of the past.  Interesting there that a club like Collingwood was several years ago signing up the NSW Scholarship kids at a rate unknown south of the Murray, along with testing the waters of the Irish Sea and bringing in an American basketballer. 

Point being - - don't get blinded by notions of 'cash grabs'.  Clubs always have to look for a point of difference and I reckon at very least with Pelchen on board at (once was) Moorrabbin that this is something to look on with interest rather than concern.

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First internationally staged AFL Premiership Game bound for NZ?
Authored by: sverik25 on Friday, March 09 2012 @ 05:14 PM ACDT

First of all of Rory, Wellington's population is 50,000 or so higher than Canberra's and Wellington is a central location for all of New Zealand and provides easier access for people from the South Island. Auckland and other major population areas on the North Island are at most 45 minutes away by plane and places like Napier (pop 60,000)  and Palmerston North (pop 80,000) are only a few hours drive away from Wellington. It is easy for events such as this to get lost or become glossed over because of the numerous larger sporting events to be played in a big city such as Auckland. This is less true for Wellington.

I am a St Kilda supporter and hope their New Zealand aspirations come into fruition and are successful. The only issue I have is whether four games per year is too many, I would think two or three would be more appropriate given the state of New Zealand AFL. Either way, the prospect of AFL games being played internationally is exciting and I look forward to the continued exposure other countries will have to our great game.

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First internationally staged AFL Premiership Game bound for NZ?
Authored by: Rory Slater on Friday, March 09 2012 @ 05:35 PM ACDT

Michael

The Swannies sadly will not play in the capital anymore after building up a very passionate support base here over the years.  The advent of GWS put pay to that.

The Swannies played here in Canberra gratis unlike those blow in blow out clubs i.e. North.

Tassie, the NT, the ACT, on merit  alone can and should be the next in line for expansion and to be perfectly frank, it is insulting to be compared with NZ on any level.  The population of Wellington is approx 390K while Canberra and Queanbeyans are close to 400K and upwards of 600k regionally, with footy cred to boot ,yet we in the nations capital keep being told by the powers that be, that this is an unsustainable demographic.  The blatant double standard here is that Rod along with the AFL and others seem to be ticking this criteria in respect of Wellington?

Whichever way you pitch your rationale this has to be one of the most disenfranchisng propositions for long suffering footy communities i.e. ours, to ever take place.  We have been gracious in our resignation to the GWS and GC constructs more recently but really, this is beyond the pale and is far from over.  

It is my hope that this news may feature in the local press as a continuation on a theme, given a recent editorial to do with the expedient way Canberra continues to be treated by sporting bodies across codes.  This incidious NZ Aust Footy evolution is about to resonate strongly amongst the codes faithful I believe, for better or for worse.

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First internationally staged AFL Premiership Game bound for NZ?
Authored by: Brett Northey on Friday, March 09 2012 @ 10:57 PM ACDT

As said above, the AFL have to be pragmatic.  I see two drivers for new clubs - 1. meeting existing demand or 2. dramatically expanding the game's reach.

Tassie hopefully one day ticks the first box, GC ticks both, GWS ticks the latter, NZ ticks the latter.  Canberra appears to me to have a foot in both boxes, but doesn't do either well enough (in numbers of strong fans or number of potential new fans) to persuade the AFL at this point in time.  Perhaps if they grow as a region but shun the game then they may tick the latter box one day, or if they can widen their passion for the game maybe the first box.  But seems unlikely to me in the next 20 years.

And when Tony Abbott's Coalition comes to power it seems high on his agenda will be ripping the heart out of the public service, so Canberra's viability as a growing region is in the gun anyway.

"The Opposition had already pledged to reduce the public service by 12,000 positions if it wins government." 

As for Wellington, I do worry about its viability and would worry less so if it was Auckland.  But the ground issues have been well articulated by Rod.

I'd be very surprised if the Saints played 4 home games a year there in the next decade.  Seems unlikely.  Maybe 1 NAB Cup and 2 home games?  And maybe another team selling one of their home games?

But let's just get one done and start the ball rolling.

---
Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN
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First internationally staged AFL Premiership Game bound for NZ?
Authored by: Rod Shaw on Saturday, March 10 2012 @ 10:10 AM ACDT

Dear All Interesting the tangents in a story take! I was asked a question about why Wellington and not Auckland which I responded to. I am pretty sure I was not asked a question why Wellington and not Canberra. Rory, you make a lot of assumptions from the simple fact I have reported a straightforward great news story about our great game and offered a little bit of personal history related to it. FWIW I firmly believe that our game should continue to expand at the top level to include teams from Darwin, Tasmania, Cairns, Canberra and NZ. I think NZ is a gimmee because it automatically gives an international aspect at the top level to what remains our iconic game. It is done already with union, league, netball, soccer, basketball and once upon a time was done with cricket. I think it has to be noted however that all of the above sports have an extensive base in NZ which at this stage footy does not. I think that with the development occurring at multiple levels this will be an issue overcome in time. What I actually wanted to add to my above story was some further history to the Wellington Stadium I gave recalled. Please allow for forgetfulness over a 15 year period! Ian Collins and Wayne Jackson came over to wgtn in July 1997 to scope The Basin for an Ansett Cup game in early 98 which happened to be the Dees v the Swans- Melbourne v Sydney which was thought to be a good marketing tool. Although the AFL great ones launched our Wgtn season at the Australian High Commission their major duties were to discuss the game with sponsors and council. I know that they supported the vision of AFL football with the Council who were at the planning stage for The Caketin. This certainly helped lend wait to what Will McKenzie was doing for the NZAFL. In reality Demetriou, Anderson etc are building on the earlier vision and efforts of Wayne, Collo, Ross Smith, Ed Biggs etc. This is just something I feel needs to be acknowledged along the way. Rory, I would be very excited to see the Canberra Bureaucrats, the Cairns Reefers ;-), the Top End Typhoons and the Tasmanian Devils in the big league but that dies not stop me from also thinking footy is, and should be, bigger than just a domestic market!

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First internationally staged AFL Premiership Game bound for NZ?
Authored by: Rod Shaw on Saturday, March 10 2012 @ 10:12 AM ACDT

Sorry a couple of errors in that but done on my phone so too hard to check eg wait/ weight Apologies Rod

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First internationally staged AFL Premiership Game bound for NZ?
Authored by: Michael Christiansen on Saturday, March 10 2012 @ 10:28 AM ACDT

I should point out my angst with previous AFL admins was more around the burning desire to reduce Vic teams - and North felt the heat on that front.  That and the lack of support for individual clubs around grounds - mistakes made on all sides, but, for a club like North to get shafted from a pretty reasonable set up of MCG plus (either Princes Park or interstate) and shunted into Docklands with a shocker deal.......perhaps intended to ensure the quick demise/relocation of a proud Vic club??

Meanwhile - I've been pleasantly surprised with the willingness to explore international pathways out of AFL HQ.

Ed Biggs......there's a name not mentioned for a while.  What's he up to these days?

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First internationally staged AFL Premiership Game bound for NZ?
Authored by: Brett Northey on Sunday, March 11 2012 @ 09:24 PM ACDT

Thanks for the history Rod.  Agreed it's important to note these things and acknowledge that they don't just happen over night.  Sounds like there was some real vision and planning that got lost along the way for a while but ultimately pay off, with more than just a few pre season games.

---
Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN
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First internationally staged AFL Premiership Game bound for NZ?
Authored by: sverik25 on Friday, March 09 2012 @ 05:43 PM ACDT

Rory, I don't believe St Kilda (or any club for that matter) looking to play games in New Zealand will affect whether or not Tasmania get an AFL team. I was very disappointed when I learnt that GWS had been granted the AFL's 18th licence ahead of Tassie and I wanted, and still want, Tassie to get the AFL team they deserve. I believe that the AFL cannot be too far away from granting an AFL licence to Tasmania, regardless of whether AFL clubs play games overseas or not. Australian cities and states will not be forsaken as the AFL looks to exapand internationally and I think both Australian cities and states and the game internationally can benefit.

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First internationally staged AFL Premiership Game bound for NZ?
Authored by: Michael Christiansen on Friday, March 09 2012 @ 08:12 PM ACDT

I'd love to see a side in Tassie too - however, I can see massive 20-50 year down the track logic and demand in fact for 2 teams in each of NSW and QLD.

Will Tassie get a club from ground up or will they get a relocated club?  Dunno.

What is clear though is that the Tassie Govt had no money to put into Bellerive redevelopment this time around.  Contrast to the QLD Govt putting $60 mill into Metricon along with Fed and Gold Coast City Council funds (+ AFL), and NSW Govt funds into both Blacktown and the Showgrounds.

The AFL has to, must, be pragmatic.  While I'm dubious that an NT side might be doable (perhaps NT-PNG-FNQ) - I do ponder a potential future 20 team 2 conference scenario??  Tas and Canberra?  or a 3rd WA? or an NZ (Oceania)??  How many as new entities.  How many as relocations??

Look - it's easy to bash the AFL - for me, I look at the Demetriou era and love most of what this installation of AFL admin has overseen - - contrast to some prior AFL admins and I'm pretty happy to entrust this bunch.  Main thing is - you can't please everyone.  However, it's good sometimes to listen to the complaints and issues of other codes.

For example - the higher cost of junior soccer compared to junior Aust Footy.  Or, the expansion to Perth vs another team in Brisbane or Central QLD or Gosford for the NRL......etc etc.  The AFL does NOT operate in a 'vacuum' - so as nice as Tas18 or ACT18 would've been instead of GWS18 - - the reality is that the AFL has stolen a massive jump on Soccer in West Sydney and the turmoil around GCutd also shows the need for the AFL to not leave Gold Coast any longer than they did - as a North person I wanted us up there but - for the good of footy it's best we didn't as I LOVE this ground up club building program the AFL has used for GC17 and GWS18.  Other codes have stood back and now - they admire it. 

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