Maroochy…where? Oh, Maroochydore.
Thursday, December 26 2019 @ 11:51 pm ACDT
Contributed by: Wesley Hull
Time will almost certainly prove that the selection of the Maroochydore Multi Sports Complex on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland for the 2020 International Cup will be an inspired choice. Take it from me, a coach who steered his teams to two spectacular losses at the venue in 2017.
This venue has the capacity to not only host the IC20 but also take the tournament into a future of even greater growth.
Since 2002, the six editions of the International Cup have been hosted by Melbourne – not unreasonably, as the city is the spiritual home of Australian Football and a magnet for followers of the game. Royal Park and a number of suburban and country venues showcased the international teams over the years, as did iconic venues such as the MCG. Games have been played in Sydney also.
However, to many a move away from Melbourne would almost certainly have seen the tournament head to another Australian Rules dominant city such as Adelaide or Perth. Not so, as it turns out, with the AFL casting a keen eye towards the future, especially in Queensland.
Whilst the logistics and rationale of a Queensland move can be argued later, Maroochydore as a destination offers plenty. For those unfamiliar with the venue, a little description is needed.
There are three excellent, full size football fields. Adjacent to these are three soccer fields and a number of netball courts. There are also training areas adjacent to these. In short, the venue has the capacity to host three matches at a time on full fields, with plenty of space for warming up. Of course, things like toilet facilities, canteens and undercover viewing areas exist, making it a user-friendly venue.
This venue alone will cater for most of the matches, but the highlight will be the use of “The Gabba” for the final. However, whilst the draws are yet to be arranged, there are many suburban grounds as well as regional venues that could be used to take the games to the potentially huge spectator markets across the south-east Queensland regions, which include the Sunshine Coast, Greater Brisbane and even the Gold Coast. The bulk of the state’s population lives across these three areas which gives potential to generate big crowds if the marketing and promotion is done well enough.
The growth of the game in Queensland has been huge over the past couple of decades – heavily influenced by the ex-pat Victorians who historically moved to the south-east as well as the support for both the Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns in the AFL. Whilst both teams have had lean years, they have also generated wide interest and support.
What happens after the IC20 remains to be seen. Queensland may or may not retain the event. However, if the state successfully hosts a memorable IC20 then the scope to host again remains. In fact, future incarnations of the event might also begin to travel across the state. Cazalys Stadium in Cairns, Riverway Stadium in Townsville and Harrup Park in Mackay are excellent venues and have all hosted AFL premiership or pre-season matches. Other excellent facilities can be found in Rockhampton, Wide Bat/Burnett and Toowoomba where large and healthy junior and senior Australian Football leagues already exist.
With the best men and women footballers coming to Maroochydore next July 25th to August 8th from Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and Oceania, some may feel a little let down that Melbourne – the Aussie Rules Mecca – is no longer the venue.
However, they can rest assured that Maroochydore will be an excellent alternative, not only for the quality of football facilities, but also the proximity to some of Queensland’s, and indeed Australia’s greatest scenery and attractions.
It is very possible that the move to Maroochydore is a shot in the arm for the International Cup and the game as a whole. Not just for IC20, but for the longer-term future of the event.