Tropical Mackay To Join AFL Ranks
Thursday, October 29 2015 @ 11:52 pm ACDT
Contributed by: Wesley Hull
With the release today of the 2016 Toyota AFL Premiership Season Fixture, the Northern Territory and Tropical North Queensland are again the winners. Once again, matches will be played for premiership points in Alice Springs, Darwin and Cairns. But by far the biggest winner was the North Queensland city of Mackay which will host its first ever official AFL match in the pre-season NAB Cup match.
For the past three seasons the city of Townsville has held the event, hosting matches featuring North Melbourne (2013) Brisbane Lions (2014) and Geelong (2015) each playing the Gold Coast Suns. But Mackay’s successful bid will see the Brisbane Lions return north, this time at the Harrup Park Country Club complex.
Current St Kilda player, David Armitage, is a Mackay boy, having played for the Eastern Swans in his junior days prior to drafting into the AFL, adding a level of local interest to the game.
Mackay Regional Council’s Tourism and Economic Development spokesperson, Councillor Greg Martin, stated to the Mackay Daily Mercury newspaper, “"Securing this pre-season NAB Cup game was a further outcome of the great collaboration between MRC and Harrup Park and their board and we will continue to work with them to explore all partnership funding opportunities to raise the standard of lighting and facilities to progress to securing a AFL match for premiership points."
The match will take place in Mackay on March 6th next year.
Further north in Cairns, the Western Bulldogs will return for their third and final visit of their current agreement when they host the Gold Coast Suns at Cazalys Stadium. The Round 17 premiership match has become a fixture in the north since Richmond and the Gold Coast played for premiership points in the city from 2011 to 2013 before the Bulldogs took over for the 2014 and 2015 matches.
Prior to that, the city hosted pre-season AFL matches, as well as a VFL match in 2010 between the then Essendon affiliate, the Bendigo Bombers, and the newly formed Suns. The match will be played wholly under lights on Saturday 17th July as a night match for the first time instead of the usual twilight game.
The Northern Territory will again see two premiership matches, both featuring the Melbourne Demons. The Round 10 match will again feature Melbourne up against Port Adelaide at TIO Traeger Park in Alice Springs on May 28th. Later in the year, TIO Stadium in Darwin will host the Round 16 clash between Melbourne and Fremantle on July 9th.
It remains a great coup that both the Northern Territory and the tropics of Queensland can offer two matches each to their own footy loving populations, both satisfying local footy tragics as well as the more important role of helping to develop grass roots level footy.