North-Gold Coast ties an issue: bid head

A crowd of just 6,354 watched North beat West Coast by six points on May 17.
A crowd of just 6,354 watched North beat West Coast by six points on May 17.

The head of the Gold Coast bid to become the AFL's 17th team believes North Melbourne's relationship with the region is "an issue" and is unsure how the league can best retain a presence on the tourist strip beyond this year.

A crowd of just 6,354 watched North beat West Coast by six points on May 17, which made the fixture the lowest-attended since the mid-1990s.

It also brought into doubt whether North would next year host games in the region they effectively rejected last year, when they decided to stay in Melbourne rather than relocate.

The Kangaroos will play two more games at Carrara this year - against St Kilda in round 14 and the Brisbane Lions in round 18 - but will meet with the AFL later this year to discuss their 2009 commitments, the final year of a three-season contract to play games in the region.

North could fulfil their obligations and play the games, but might request that the AFL switch the matches back to Melbourne, which would present a scheduling hole.

GC17 head John Witheriff said it was vital the Gold Coast host games in the lead-up to the mooted expansion season 2011, but admitted the region's relationship with the Kangaroos was not that cosy.

Witheriff hinted that the relationship was not helped by comments made by North coach Dean Laidley, who after the game said he "couldn't care less" how many fans showed up.

"The issue with North Melbourne and its relationship with the Gold Coast is an issue that's going to require some careful thought going forward," Witheriff said.

"It's probably the most significant issue impacting upon crowd attendances.

"It's very important that Gold Coasters get the opportunity to see football of the quality that we saw on Saturday night regardless of storms, power outages, and individuals who perhaps should be a little bit more circumspect in terms of the way they choose their language.

"The one thing that was an absolute certainty was that everyone of us who was there were on the edge of our seats the whole night.

"So that's very important for the Gold Coast (to host more games)."

Witheriff was unsure what the best outcome was for the Gold Coast, but was pleased it was the AFL that had to decide which sides would play on the strip next year.

"I've got a massive job to get done up here, so I'm glad it's not my problem," he said.

He said Saturday night's attendance was affected by a pre-game storm which would have deterred some fans from attending, while the Lions were playing on free-to-air television at the same time.

He was confident the remaining two matches at Carrara this season would draw bigger crowds.