AFL pushes deeper into Queensland - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

AFL pushes deeper into Queensland

Darren Cartwright 16/07/2011 01:38:04 PM Comments (0)

The AFL's expansion program in Queensland is all about the "bigger picture" and growing the game from the ground up.

They have invested millions in the state's Auskick program for primary school children - of both genders - and the participation levels continue to rise.

They've banked on those kids then becoming AFL converts and supporting the Brisbane Lions and, since this year, the fledgling Gold Coast Suns.

It's been a strong and determined push and while it may not be completely over, the way in which the AFL has nurtured, promoted and supported the game in Queensland cannot be questioned.

The emergence of the Suns completed the southeast Queensland grand plan.

Now the AFL is on the march again and on Saturday they start painting the future of the game in the far north of the state.

The AFL's first brush stroke of the "bigger picture" will be Richmond and Gold Coast's first ever AFL clash, which will be played in Cairns.

The Tigers are locked in to play the Suns in Cairns for three years in a deal which delivers the region one guaranteed premiership match until 2013 and the Tigers a bucket load of money.

But for the AFL to storm, not march, into far north Queensland it needs to shore up a deal with the Tigers, or another Melbourne-based side for that matter, to play games beyond 2013.

AFL Queensland chief executive Richard Griffiths said the Suns-Tigers encounter was the fillip the code needed in the top end of the state.

Pre-season competition games have been staged in Cairns over the last decade, but they don't compare to a premiership match.

"We've basically had double digit growth in our AusKick program every year for the last 10 years," Griffiths told AAP.

"People are coming from Townsville and Mackay to here, so it's more about the region and not just Cairns.

"Playing a game in Queensland is all part of the growth strategy in north Queensland."

The AFL needs to look no further than their Canberra, Launceston and Darwin fixturing to know the impact of having local matches on a long-term basis.

The first match Hawthorn played at Launceston was in 2001.

North Melbourne staged a home match at Manuka Oval, Canberra in 1998 and the Western Bulldogs broke the ice in Darwin 2004.

All those three cities have staged AFL matches this year.

Griffiths said the hardest assignment for the AFL was getting a Melbourne club to commit to Cairns because of the travel requirements.

"Richmond needs to be commended for helping push this game into far north Queensland as the travel is as tough on players as it is going to Perth," he explained.

It's taken more than Richmond's involvement for the three-year commitment in Cairns to be a reality.

The federal and state government have tipped in money and Queensland Events has been critical in the outcome.

For instance, the Queensland government provided $2 million for two new light towers which will lift the standard of lighting to a level suitable for TV and allow for night AFL matches from next season.

Surrounding roads have been upgraded, media and corporate facilities have been improved and the players' change rooms and facilities are now to the AFL's liking.

Gold Coast defender Jarrod Harbrow grew up in Cairns and understands more than most the importance of Saturday's clash with Richmond to the game, the economy and the fans.

"It means everything," Harbrow said.

"The NAB (pre-season) Cup did a fair bit for AFL, with clubs coming up here, but then that dropped off.

"The new contract we (the Suns) have with Richmond for the next few years is massive for Cairns.

"Far north Queensland is only going to produce more numbers at Auskick level than we've seen.

"As long as I'm around I'd like to play here every year until I finish my career."

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2020 AAP

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