Cairns To Get Round One Match In 2018
Sunday, October 22 2017 @ 09:50 pm ACDT
Contributed by: Wesley Hull
In a complete departure from previous seasons, the Far North Queensland city of Cairns will host their 2018 match in Round One when the Gold Coast Suns become the host team and will play the North Melbourne Kangaroos. This is a huge shift from the previous seven AFL Premiership seasons, which has traditionally seen Cairns host matches involving the Suns, Richmond and Western Bulldogs in July.
It is a huge win for the northern city, which was uncertain as to its ability to host future matches when the Western Bulldogs announced they would pursue their Ballarat home game options from 2018 onwards. With an opening round start, it would be hoped that the Cairns fixture could capitalise on the traditional excitement of opening rounds as well as connecting directly with the early stages of local junior and senior competition.
Cairns has long been a producer of AFL talent. Currently, Cairns products in Charlie Dixon (Port Adelaide), Jarrod Harbrow (Gold Coast) and Jack Bowes (Gold Coast) are on team lists. Former Essendon star, Courtenay Dempsey is a Cairns boy, as was his team-mate in 2016 (and former Lion) Sam Michael.
The catalyst for change was the unavailability of the Suns’ home ground, Metricon Stadium, due to the upcoming Commonwealth Games – it is one of the venues and cannot be used early in the AFL season.
Ben Collins reported on the www.afl.com.au website that the AFL’s Travis Auld and Gold Coast Suns Chief Executive Mark Evans were delighted with the opening round match.
“Australian Football is thriving in North Queensland, and we're pleased the passionate fans in the region will help us kick off the 2018 Toyota AFL Premiership Season," Travis Auld, the AFL's general manager of clubs and broadcasting, said in a statement.
"North Queensland has produced current AFL players in Charlie Dixon, Jarrod Harbrow, Zac Smith and Jack Bowes, and the AFL hopes that bringing matches to the region will continue to inspire both female and male players to reach the big time."
Gold Coast chief executive Mark Evans was "thrilled" that the Suns would kick off their campaign in the heart of their talent academy.
"A round one game in Cairns presents a wonderful opportunity to showcase the region ahead of what is always a much-anticipated opening round," Evans said.
"As a club we have established significant support in Cairns and throughout North Queensland. We are committed to playing our role in developing our game throughout the region."
AFL Cairns will be delighted also with the news after so many years of hard work to develop Cazalys Stadium, promote the game to the Cairns and regional community and develop their senior and junior clubs on the back of increased interest in the game.
The match will be played at Cazaly’s Stadium on Saturday 24th March under lights.
The match will also herald the arrival of a new era of AFL Premiership and pre-season matches with Townsville to receive more games from 2019 onwards.
Picture Source: ww.afl.com.au