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Sunday, June 07 2020 @ 12:08 pm ACST

Traeger Park shines as Cats lick Demons


Alice Springs’ own TIO Traeger Park shone today, as did the blazing Centralian sky, as Geelong locked horns with Melbourne in the second last “18 Games in 18 Days” NAB Challenge.

With a touch of history thrown in, this was the first match played in Australia’s heart involving two Melbourne based clubs, with both being the founding clubs of the competition in Australia, coming into existence in 1859 as the oldest of the current AFL clubs.

With temperatures in the low 30’s, a crowd of a little less than 5500 fans turned up at to watch the Northern Territory’s first AFL match of 2014. The Alice Springs crowd was the biggest for an NAB Cup/Challenge match at the venue since 2008.

On the beautifully manicured playing surface, and with the timeless MacDonnell Ranges serving as a backdrop to the south, it was the Geelong Cats that jumped away early to lead the Melbourne Demons. By half time, however, Melbourne, under the watchful gaze of new coach, Paul Roos, had fought back bravely to hold a narrow half time lead.

The appreciative crowd then saw some vintage Cat power as Geelong surged away during the third quarter. But this Melbourne side is a different beast under Paul Roos, and the Demons fought back hard in the final quarter, ultimately going down by just 13 points.

The match featured its own highlights and controversies for the local supporters with Melbourne kicking three supergoals, inspirational Cat skipper Joel Selwood being subbed out with a hamstring injury and Billy Smedts reported for a crude spoiling attempt on Melbourne’s Jimmy Toumpas.

During their time in “The Alice” players from both teams have been available for community and school visits, including players from the Melbourne club visiting local schools such as the indigenous Yipirinya Primary School to help support the fight against the eye disease trachoma through the “clean face, clean eyes” message. The disease is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness, affecting the external tissue lining of the eye and eyelids. It is a disease more prevalent in dry and dusty places, and Melbourne players have been visiting the schools to raise awareness of the disease.

Fans of the game in Australia’s “Red Centre” only need wait until the 31st May when the Melbourne Demons return to play the Port Adelaide Power in Round 11 of the AFL Premiership season. This will be the first match played for premiership points at TIO Traeger Park in Alice Springs.

Attention for Northern Territory fans will then turn to the Round 17 clash between Melbourne and Fremantle at TIO Stadium in Darwin on 5th July.

BELOW: Day and night views of Traeger Park, Alice Springs.

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