AFL confirmed for capital next year

18:14, Sep 12 2012
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PUTTING THE BOOT IN: The St Kilda Saints' Leigh Montagna is a veteran of more than 160 games.
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NUMBER ONE: Josh Kennedy is a standout player for the Sydney Swans.
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PILEUP: Marty Mattner has been playing in the AFL for a decade, but is a recent signing to the Sydney Swans.
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ONE TO WATCH: At just 20 years old, Sam Reid is a rising star of the Sydney Swans.
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COMING ALONG: Nick Smith was named the Sydney Swans' most improved player last year.
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TEAM PLAYER: Adam Goodes has been voted Sydney Swans "players' player" for three years running.
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SURVIVOR: The St Kilda Saints' Lenny Hayes is set to make a comeback to the AFL next year after his recent heart surgery.
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IMPROVING: Young St Kilda player Ahmed Saad is showing fine form in recent games.
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HIGH SCORER: Stephen Milne is a leading goalkicker for St Kilda, having clocked up 500 goals.
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STAR PLAYER: St Kilda's Brendon Goddard is one of the top utility players in the league and has attracted the interest of several other AFL teams.
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BREAKTHROUGH: After a great season in 2010, the Sydney Swans' Kieren Jack struggled through last year with an ankle injury.
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ON FORM: St Kilda's Nick Dal Santo is a star player likely to play in the Wellington AFL game.
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BACK IN THE GAME: St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt had a nightmare 2011, but has reignited his passion for the game.

Wellington will host the first AFL game outside of Australia, between St Kilda Saints and Sydney Swans, on Anzac Day next year.

As reported in The Dominion Post in April, the Wellington City Council, St Kilda, and the AFL, have been working towards a partnership agreement aimed at increasing the popularity of Australian Rules football in New Zealand.

St Kilda and Sydney will meet in a premiership match at Westpac Stadium on April 25, with the prospect of Wellington hosting more games beyond that.

The deal was announced at AFL House in Melbourne today with the council's sports portfolio leader John Morrison present, along with Saints officials and AFL chief operating officer Gillon McLachlan.

''The AFL opportunity will encourage our nearest neighbours to deepen sporting and cultural ties, providing mutual tourism and business opportunities,'' said Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown.

''This is the result of a lot of hard work and commitment from councillor Morrison and staff. AFL is a massive part of Australian culture, a billion dollar industry, and it's coming here. This is a great new event for the capital.''

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Wellington has previously hosted AFL pre-season games with 9000 fans piling into the Basin Reserve in 1998.

''But this match really counts,'' said Morrison.

''AFL matches boast an average of 34,500 fans to every game, and thousands more viewers. That figure ranks fourth behind NFL football, the German Bundesliga [football] and the English Premier League.''

St Kilda, a Melbourne club, just missed out on this season's top eight finals series, finishing ninth of 18 teams with a 12 win, 10 loss record.

Saints stars include Nick Riewoldt, Lenny Hayes and Nick Dal Santo.

Sydney finished third in the round-robin and will host a preliminary final against either West Coast or Collingwood on September 21.

Swans stars include Adam Goodes, Kieren Jack and Josh Kennedy.

Wade-Brown said the historic match would add to wider Anzac Day commemoration services.

''This trans-Tasman AFL deal is a brilliant opportunity to strengthen the unique mateship across the Tasman.''

Related story:  Why are AFL players' shorts so short?

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Contact Sam Worthington
Sports reporter
Email: sam.worthington@dompost.co.nz

The Dominion Post