Our own AFL club by 2010

By GARY SMART

THE AFL wants a team based permanently on the Gold Coast by 2010, and sees the Tweed and northern New South Wales as important to the ground-breaking initiative.

But despite their success at Carrara this season, it may not be the Kangaroos, according to the local group advising the AFL board.

An influential advisory panel has been working quietly behind the scenes for the past couple of months, at the AFL's request, to put together the best business case for a Gold Coast team.

The AFL has determined the Gold Coast is the best option Australia-wide for a new franchise, with its exploding population and growing corporate base. And it is mindful of the associated burgeoning growth of the Tweed and northern NSW as both sea-changer and holiday destinations.

One of the important recommendations in the local panel's final submission will be to extend the brand presence of any new team to include northern NSW, Ipswich, Logan and the hinterland, so that the new team is more than just a Gold Coast team. The Kangaroos club, which played several games at Carrara earlier this season as part of a 10-game, three-year deal, is the obvious option if a joint deal is struck with a Melbourne club.

But advisory group chairman John Witheriff, a senior law firm partner and chairman of the Gold Coast Regional Economic Development Organisation, says another club or a completely fresh licence is not out of the question.

He said the panel, which also includes Gold Coast City Council chief executive Dale Dickson, a former Brisbane Bears player, businessmen Tony Smith (Breakfree) and Graeme Downey (former Brisbane Lions chairman), former AFL boss Ross Oakley and media identities, had been asked by the AFL to consider every facet of a new licence.

"That includes a relationship with a team like the Kangaroos or a stand-alone licence where we essentially start from scratch like the Titans have in the NRL," he said.

As well as the Gold Coast panel, the AFL and the Kangaroos have panels working on similar submissions. All three bodies of work will be pulled together for a final submission to the AFL around November.

Apart from ascertaining whether there is the financial and supporter base for a team on the Gold Coast, a stadium looms as a key issue.

Carrara shapes as the best option, but would require a massive, multi-million dollar redevelopment which would require state government involvement.

Peter Damaskinos, president of the Coolangatta Blues Australian Football Club, which has produced juniors such as David Hale (Kangaroos), Sam Gilbert (St Kilda) and Wayne Mills (Brisbane Lions) who have gone on to play AFL football, is strongly behind the push for a local team.

"We definitely need a team on the Gold Coast,' he said yesterday.

"The Brisbane Lions haven't wanted to know about the Gold Coast, but the Kangaroos have been very good this year.

"Every time they have come to the Coast they have sent players to our junior clubs.

"People have gone to the games at Carrara, and I think the Kangaroos would develop a following for certain. "We definitely need an AFL team in the area by 2010," he said.



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