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Venues in regional Victoria see prospects for hosting AFL Premiership fixtures

Venues in regional Victoria see prospects for hosting AFL Premiership fixtures
July 1, 2021

The relocation of out-of-state AFL clubs to Victorian has presented the opportunity for sports grounds in regional parts of the state to host Premiership fixtures.

With all 18 AFL clubs currently based in Victoria, Cameron Voss of Austadiums has suggested that “grounds in regional Victoria may host games for premiership points as the league looks at all options to get through the season.”

With the Marvel Stadium and the MCG, along with Geelong’s GMHBA Stadium, facing potential congestion, Voss writes “with much of the country currently in lockdown due to COVID, Victoria will host additional matches, with the AFL eager to avoid cutting the season short, thus sticking with all 23 rounds.

“Three round 16 games have already been relocated, with Thursday’s Gold Coast Suns v Richmond game moved to Marvel Stadium, Sydney Swans v West Coast to Geelong, while the Fremantle v Carlton game appears likely to be played at either Geelong or in Melbourne.

“The AFL is also looking at double-headers to get through the schedule.”

Uncertainty currently surrounds the Adelaide Crows v Brisbane Lions fixture which is still officially scheduled at Adelaide Oval this Saturday (3rd July), despite both teams having flown into Melbourne. Voss suggests that the South Australian Government is keen for the game to proceed, but that there AFL considers it a risk sending the teams there.

Writing on the Austadiums website, Voss goes on to say “Ballarat’s Mars Stadium is all but guaranteed to host AFL matches, as it has each year since 2017. Although with Victoria’s 10 AFL clubs based at just three stadiums, additional grounds will need to be unearthed.

“While traditional suburban grounds such as Ikon Park and Whitten Oval may host matches, as they do often during the pre-season, regional venues appear more likely to be on the menu.

“Potential options include Norm Minns Oval in Wangaratta, Deakin Reserve in Shepparton, Queen Elizabeth Oval in Bendigo and Lavington Sports Ground in Albury on the VIC/NSW border.

“Grounds that host pre-season matches have the infrastructure in place to host AFL matches, with most having been upgraded in recent years, while Fox Footy has previously broadcast every pre-season game live.”

As of yesterday, the Victorian Government paused the further easing of restrictions in the state, dashing hopes of bigger attendances for AFL Premiership games. With crowds welcomed back in Melbourne last week at 50% of capacity with a cap of 25,000, it was planned to increase to 85% with no cap this weekend, however the existing restrictions will now remain in place.

Pre-season matches were played at Casey Fields, Wangaratta, Morwell and Colac last year and Shepparton and Ballarat in 2019, while COVID forced this year’s matches to more traditional venues.

Voss concluded “playing regional matches would be a throwback to 1952, when the VFL staged a ‘National Day Round’, with all 12 teams scheduled to play matches away from Melbourne. Games were played at Euroa, Yallourn as well as interstate venues - the SCG, North Hobart Oval, Albury Sports Ground and the Brisbane Exhibition Ground.”

Giving a fan perspective on the AFL’s relocation of clubs, Melbourne-based Wayne Driscoll yesterday commented "after 39 years ... the VFL back".

Image: Mars Stadium Ballarat.

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5th March 2021 - Victorian Government funds historic VFL clubs

2nd March 2021 - Greater Shepparton’s hosting of UCI Supercross BMX World Cup wins local government excellence award

27th December 2020 - Telstra looks to make Marvel Stadium one of the world’s most connected sporting venues

9th November 2020 - Victorian Government announces funding for completion of Geelong’s GMHBA Stadium as a 40,000 seat venue

18th September 2020 - Improvement work at Ballarat’s Mars Stadium underway

15th September 2020 - Easing of Coronavirus restrictions in regional Victoria to allow resumption of outdoor activities and dining

26th January 2019 - Mars Stadium Ballarat prepares for first Super Rugby clash

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