South-East Queensland might be coming to the AFL’s rescue.
The region could soon be home to as many as four interstate clubs, who are considering moving to the area in an effort to get the competition back up and running.
The league’s plan to resume its 2020 season in mid-June hit a roadblock in the past 24 hours, with the South Australian Government joining the Western Australian Government in refusing to ease border restrictions for their players.
Without the ability for players to bypass mandatory 14-day quarantine measures while flying in and out of their states, the Western Australian and South Australian clubs have little alternative to setting up a temporary base elsewhere.
Fremantle and West Coast have both indicated an interest in setting up on the Gold Coast, while Port Adelaide Chairman David Koch has suggested his club has a similar desire.
Gold Coast Suns CEO Mark Evans saw the potential of the region as a temporary hub.
“I suppose one of the things that really puts the area in good stead is there are so many resorts where you can set up an athlete’s village, particularly for that first few weeks when you wouldn’t want those people moving around in the community too much,” he told ABC Radio Brisbane’s Mornings program.
“Places that have golf courses and room to move would be ideal — there’d be plenty of possibilities around the Gold Coast.”
Evans is happy to share the Suns’ facilities with visiting teams and is confident that the playing surface at the club-owned Carrara Stadium could manage five or six games a week if needed.
“If there ended up being three or five teams in this area, we would cope very well,” he said.
Brisbane Lions put their hand-up
Brisbane Lions premiership coach and AFL legend Leigh Matthews seconded Evans’ endorsement of the region as a footy hub.
“If you’re going to go somewhere in Australia at this time of year, the weather’s beautiful up in this part of the world and certainly the resort-type accommodation that’s around the Gold Coast is probably ideal to be based at,” Matthews said.
The AFL are expected to announce a date for club training to resume by the end of the week, with hopes of re-starting the season shortly afterwards.
“The AFL are wanting to get going sometime in June if they can,” Matthews said.
“But it’s like a giant Rubik’s Cube as every time you get one line straight, another problem pops up.
“Whatever exists today — on May 14, May 15 and 16, might be different.”‘
If some or all of the Western Australian or South Australian teams do relocate to the Gold Coast, Evans believed it could also play a role in the recovery of Queensland’s tourism sector.
“There’s an opportunity, I think, for us to be a good community citizen,” he said.
“To get south-east Queensland going again, we have to remind people that — particularly in the Melbourne or Sydney winter — this is a pretty good place to come and visit.
“And once that domestic tourism opens up again, we want to be right at the front of Queensland could be the key to saving the 2020 AFL seasonthat and say ‘come and watch your team when you can in 2021 and don’t forget about us.'”