Anzac Day AFL match the start of big things

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 13/09/2012
Nick Riewoldt
Getty Images
ALL ACTION: Nick Riewoldt, of the St Kilda Saints in action.

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A full house at Westpac Stadium for next year's historic Anzac Day AFL game is realistic, according to Wellington city councillor John Morrison.

As reported in The Dominion Post in April, the St Kilda Saints will "host" the first AFL game outside Australia, against the Sydney Swans on April 25.

If the Wellington City Council, St Kilda and the AFL are happy with the outcome, two further games will then be held in both 2014 and 2015.

"We don't see this as an exhibition game, it's part of a longer-term partnership between Wellington, St Kilda and the AFL," said Morrison from Melbourne where he fronted a press conference yesterday to announce the deal.

"We're very hopeful, with good promotion, that we get a bloody good crowd. The target is a full house. The average AFL crowd is 34,500, which is quite phenomenal and the exact capacity of Westpac. We think between 6000-10,000 Australians will come over and there are also 65,000-70,000 Australians in New Zealand. There's a lot of New Zealanders that are sports fans as well."

Morrison said the financial details of the partnership were confidential, but the council's commitment came from the downtown levy event fund.

"We're desperate to have in-bound tourism, we're desperate to have business links with Australia and the AFL are very influential. Anzac Day is a Thursday next year so there is potential to keep them in Wellington for four days."

Morrison said ticket pricing was still being discussed but all parties were keen to continue the AFL's philosophy of "letting kids in very cheaply".

AFL chief operating officer Gillon McLachlan also left the door open for a club to be based in New Zealand eventually.

"Whether it's a team in 10 years, I'd love to think it was," McLachlan said.

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou has previously said Tasmania is the logical next location if the league expands to 19 clubs.

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

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.

Sydney finished third in the round-robin and are still alive in the finals.

Stars likely to grace Westpac Stadium include Saints duo Nick Riewoldt and Nick Dal Santo and Swans legend Adam Goodes.

St Kilda chief executive Michael Nettlefold described Wellington's stadium as "world-class" and "almost purpose built for AFL."

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Saints president Greg Westaway said the Wellington deal was "a significant moment, not only in the history of the St Kilda Football Club but also for the AFL".

The game will tie in with wider Anzac Day commemoration services and defence forces on both sides of the Tasman have an interest in playing a part.

- The Dominion Post

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