MACKAY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 03: Charlie Ballard of the Suns and Billy Gowers of the Bulldogs contest the ball during the 2019 JLT Community Series AFL match between the Gold Coast Suns and the Western Bulldogs at Great Barrier Reef Arena on March 03, 2019 in Mackay, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
MACKAY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 03: Charlie Ballard of the Suns and Billy Gowers of the Bulldogs contest the ball during the 2019 JLT Community Series AFL match between the Gold Coast Suns and the Western Bulldogs at Great Barrier Reef Arena on March 03, 2019 in Mackay, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

AFL boss: ‘It’s possible we’re playing in north Qld’

NORTH Queensland is in with a chance of hosting AFL fixtures this season with the code’s boss continuing talks with the State Government.

AFL CEO Gil McLachlan confirmed the north – which incorporates Mackay – could host the games as Queensland becomes the epicentre for the remainder of the home and away season.

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“The short answer is yes, it’s possible we’re playing in north Queensland,” Mr McLachlan told media this afternoon.

Mr McLachlan said the AFL was in the midst of booking accommodation in Queensland “for hundreds of players and officials” as the league moves to shift all Victorian clubs to the Sunshine State.

The AFL boss’ comments come after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk this morning confirmed she and Sports Minister Mick de Brenni were in talks with the AFL about housing more teams in Queensland, as the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria worsens and hot spots begin to break out in Sydney.

Six Victorian clubs are currently hubbed in Queensland, with the other four set to be temporarily relocated to the Sunshine State for the remainder of the home and away season.

“I can confirm that we are in talks to bring more teams, more players and officials here to Queensland, where Queensland will become the centre of the AFL,” she said.

“I stress none of these measures can happen without strict quarantine protocols and the COVID management plan that has allowed the AFL season to proceed.

“The health of Queenslanders comes first. But this is a way we can further help Victoria.

“I’m sure Victorians would rather the season went ahead in Queensland that not have a season at all.”

Bringing the AFL to north Queensland would be a boon not just for the state’s regional sporting centres, but also a way to boost domestic tourism to the Sunshine State, says Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan.

MACKAY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 03: Alex Sexton (r) of the Suns celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2019 JLT Community Series AFL match between the Gold Coast Suns and the Western Bulldogs at Great Barrier Reef Arena on March 03, 2019 in Mackay, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
MACKAY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 03: Alex Sexton (r) of the Suns celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2019 JLT Community Series AFL match between the Gold Coast Suns and the Western Bulldogs at Great Barrier Reef Arena on March 03, 2019 in Mackay, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

With quarantined Victorians essentially a captive audience, The NQ First leader said there was an opportunity to showcase north Queensland to the footy-loving public outside of the state.

“Publicity is rolled gold. Showcasing the Great Barrier Reef, our tropics, the Pioneer Valley … it sets north Queensland up to promote our regions and communities to the Victorian market,” he said.

“Yes there’s border restrictions now but that’s not always going to be the case.

“There will be a time when Colin from Carlton can come across the border, escape the miserable cold and come for a holiday and have a great time. North and far north Queensland offers that in spades. It will whet the appetite of those in Victoria.

“I just hope the premier and Minister for Sport and Minister for Tourism and those who are at the forefront of these discussions with Gil McLachlan aren’t forgetting about areas outside of the southeast.

“Premier … are you going in to bat to bring AFL to regional Queensland? Great Barrier Reef Arena in Mackay, Riverway in Townsville or Cazalys in Cairns? Or are we just bringing the Sherrin to grounds between Coolangatta and Noosa?”

The premier did not comment specifically on Mackay, but said it was “a great boost for AFL in our state and the Suns and Lions”.

“And I think Queenslanders should adopt a visiting team and show them what Queensland hospitality is all about,” she said.

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She also took the opportunity to bid for the AFL Grand Final.

“If the season is largely played in Queensland then I think it’s only fair we also host the Grand Final,” the Premier said.

The Gabba has firmed into the outright favourite with Sportsbet to host the AFL Grand Final, ahead of Optus Stadium and ANZ Stadium.

Mr McLachlan said the MCG would remain the grand final venue “until there are circumstances and reasons that it can’t be”.


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