AFL Queensland CEO Dean Warren says ‘never say never’ about Mackay hosting AFL premiership fixtures. (News Corp/Attila Csaszar)
AFL Queensland CEO Dean Warren says ‘never say never’ about Mackay hosting AFL premiership fixtures. (News Corp/Attila Csaszar)

‘Never say never’: AFL to consider Mackay as a host

MACKAY could host AFL premiership matches this season, though there are a number of logistical factors that could prove problematic, says AFL Queensland CEO Dean Warren.

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Backed by Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson and Mackay Tourism CEO Tas Webber, Harrup Park Country Club CEO Matt Cielens wrote to Mr Warren yesterday asking for Great Barrier Reef Arena to be considered as a host venue for the AFL's upcoming block of fixtures.

Mr Warren told the Daily Mercury he had passed the "compelling" expression of interest on to the AFL's schedule scribes.

With Victorian clubs forced to exit the state this week before its borders were closed, Queensland has suddenly become "the home of AFL", as Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk joked last week, with 12 clubs currently based in the Sunshine State.

The South Australian and West Australian clubs are expected to return home at the end of Round 6.

Izak Rankine of the Suns contests the ball with Lachie Hunter of the Bulldogs 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)
Izak Rankine of the Suns contests the ball with Lachie Hunter of the Bulldogs 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)

As the AFL scrambles to finalise its fixtures in an ever-changing coronavirus landscape, just how eight Queensland-based clubs might manage 'home' games at only two traditional venues - the Gabba and Metricon Stadium - is one of many scheduling headaches.

That would seemingly open the door for regional Queensland venues to come into consideration, however Mr Warren said there were "a whole lot of challenges that go with" playing at a regional venue, adding it was "not as simple as just getting AFL teams up there to play".

Mr Warren said the biggest hurdle was how to relocate broadcast personnel and build the necessary temporary infrastructure in a short turnaround.

"Cazalys in Cairns, Riverway Stadium in Townsville and Great Barrier Reef Arena in Mackay - they're all fantastic regional facilities. But there are some gaps," he said.

With that in mind, Mr Warren reaffirmed AFLQ's support for Harrup Park's $24 million Great Barrier Reef Arena precinct project, which would include international standard media and players facilities.

"Our long-term aim is to have a second-tier venue, if you like, in each regional part of Queensland. That allows us to take elite content to all areas of our state," he said.

"Having the broadcast infrastructure and spectator amenities is important.

"Media boxes and those sorts of things are what we need in those stadiums to host the Toyota AFL Premiership competition. (And) I know that's on the plans for the Great Barrier Reef Arena."

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ARENA PROJECT: An aerial view of the proposed Great Barrier Reef Arena. Picture: Cox Architecture
ARENA PROJECT: An aerial view of the proposed Great Barrier Reef Arena. Picture: Cox Architecture

But Mr Warren would not rule out an AFL match in Mackay in 2020.

"With that said, I think the AFL and Gil (CEO Gillon McLachlan) in particular have been very clear over the past number of weeks that we need to be flexible and consider all scenarios. You never say never," he said.

"It's a compelling expression of interest that Great Barrier Reef Arena, Mackay Council and Mackay Tourism have presented to us.

"The AFL is very appreciative of the Great Barrier Reef Arena, Mackay City Council and Mackay Tourism for reaching out. Who knows what might transpire."


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