At AFL HQ they continue to beat the drum in support of their plans to have a team on the Gold Coast by 2011. But if the architects of the competition expansion were hoping for good news out of the Kangaroos v West Coast game at Carrara last Saturday night then, as the old phrase goes, if the don’t want to know the score, they should look away now.
The curtain raiser match was between under-16 representative teams from New South Wales and Queensland. The local squad was drawn from the player pool that will be expected to deliver up to fifteen players exclusively to the new club in 2008 and 2009.
New South Wales destroyed the young Queenslanders by over 100 points with the locals registering just one goal for the game. As one former AFL veteran watching the game told Crikey, there’s simply not enough young guns in Queensland to go around.
Other AFL hard heads in Queensland dismiss this. One former AFL star with a track record in identifying future stars adamant that “there’s plenty of talent here”.
That’s not the only challenge facing the GC17 committee in charge of The Gold Coast bid.
Months after AFL commercial operations manager Gillon McLachlan assured North Melbourne that the AFL would have a stadium deal on the Gold Coast sorted out before the end of 2008 should they accept the AFL’s $100 million to head to Queensland, none has materialised.
Queried about this on Saturday night, GC17 bid Chairman John Witheriff maintained that a deal would be done. At the same time he could provide no detail on any discussions with the Queensland Government over a future home for AFL on the Gold Coast and couldn’t say if and when those talks would go ahead.
The sticking point in the current contract is that the AFL has to play all matches in South East Queensland at The Gabba until 2015. Having sunk millions of taxpayer dollars into the legendary old stadium, the Government wants a return on its investment and is in no mood to let the AFL off the hook.
The AFL’s profile and muscle open doors all across Aussie Rules mad South Eastern Australia but it has hit a brick wall north of The Tweed where folks seem more than indifferent to the sort of hubris displayed by the AFL.
At the same time, the AFL has allowed Scott Munn to be seconded from its Melbourne bunker to become a project manager with GC17 to help it complete its bid which is due in 146 days. The GC17 bid that has the imprimatur of the vendor before sale. Has the AFL tended for other bidders? If not, why not? Surely a competition of ideas would be healthy in their attempt to establish this new club.
And why would anyone put in a bid now that they’ve seen the AFL hitch its wagon to GC17?
It seems it’s not only the Queensland under-16s who’ve got a hell of a lot of work to do before they’ll be serious contenders.