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GWS team to play at Sydney Showgrounds

08/06/2010 06:10:07 PM Comments (0)

AFL boss Andrew Demetriou has hailed the securing of Sydney Showgrounds as Greater Western Sydney's home venue a "perfect result" after coaxing the NSW government into a multi-million dollar backflip.

The state government will commit $45 million to upgrading the Sydney Showgrounds, which will undergo a boost in capacity from 15,000 to 25,000 ahead of GWS's entry into the AFL as the 18th team in 2012.

It was another significant victory for the AFL, a week after rugby league superstar Israel Folau agreed to switch codes and join GWS.

Rugby league in NSW also benefited from some state government largesse on Tuesday, with the announcement it would receive $45 million to keep the NRL grand final at Sydney's ANZ Stadium for the next 10 years.

Demetriou and NSW minister for sport and recreation Kevin Greene deflected numerous questions about the cost of upgrading Sydney Showgrounds, with the 80,000-capacity ANZ stadium, already used for AFL, located just down the road.

Both stressed the additional funding, which will be supplemented by $10 million from the AFL and $5 million from the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW, would provide infrastructure for Western Sydney.

The change of heart came just seven months after former NSW premier Nathan Rees said his government would rather spend money on hospitals and schools than give this sort of financial support to the AFL for a stadium next to one that already existed.

GWS will continue to train at the much smaller Blacktown Olympic Park facility.

"This is the perfect result for us, it's a result that we've been working on for a number of months," Demetriou told journalists in Sydney.

"It's going to be a great facility to watch the game and is a key plank of the club being able to generate revenue.

"We've always had our eye on the Showgrounds."

The Showgrounds upgrade will include two new grandstands and could allow the venue to be used for other sports including cricket, the three other major football codes and concerts and festivals.

After entering the AFL in 2012, GWS will play the bulk of its matches at the boutique venue, but can also use neighbouring ANZ Stadium for bigger-drawing fixtures.

Cross-town rivals Sydney Swans are committed to playing three games a year at ANZ until 2016.

A Swans spokesperson said the club was likely to opt to play its home games against GWS at the SCG rather than ANZ Stadium.

Demetriou said the AFL wasn't actively pursuing any more rugby league stars after signing up Folau and Karmichael Hunt to the Gold Coast side.

But he didn't totally rule out further cross-code raids.

"It's not something that is on our radar. We haven't put aside a specific amount of money to start targeting NRL and ARU players," Demetriou said.

"If opportunities arise we'd look at them on their merits and it's not often that an Israel Folau or Karmichael Hunt comes around.

"They've been two unique circumstances, they may be the last, but there might be another one out there."

Melbourne Storm champion Greg Inglis has been linked with Essendon.

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