Our AFL dream comes true

IT'S the news Tweed and Gold Coast Australian Rules fans have been longing for - the Gold Coast has been granted the AFL's 17th licence.

AFL chief executive officer Andrew Demetriou made the timely announcement yesterday before an excited crowd gathered for the Gold Coast Football Club's (GCFC) inaugural team launch at the Gold Coast Art Centre.

“This is an historic day for the Gold Coast and an historic day for the AFL,” Demetriou said.

“The Gold Coast has proven its ability to support and sustain an AFL team in this region ... the foundations have been put in place to build a strong and sustainable club.

“We (the AFL) are committing at least $100 million to the club over the next six years, and we're contributing another $100 million to the development of football in Queensland.”

GCFC advisory board chairman John Witheriff said the Gold Coast community had stood up and been counted when asked to support the GC17 bid, and was understandably thrilled with the AFL's decision.

“It is time for celebration,” he said.

“I believe the Gold Coast has been given an incredible opportunity, and this is another step in our journey to becoming the most exciting sporting club in Australia.

“This club has been born through the support and love of the people of the Gold Coast community, and we intend to repay their faith.

“Our values and our aspirations will reflect this city; we will be progressive, innovative, exciting and a little bit cheeky.”

The Gold Coast Football Club will play in Victoria's TAC Cup until officially entering the AFL arena in 2011.

Although granted, the licence is dependent on the finalisation of an agreement between the Queensland government and the Gold Coast City Council on the transfer of ownership of Carrara Stadium and the surrounding land.

Premier Anna Bligh and Mayor Ron Clarke joined representatives from the community, junior football clubs and local supporters for the historic announcement, and both were pleased with the outcome.

“GC17, its band of supporters and the AFL have worked hard for this day,” Bligh said.

“There will be much back- slapping, but now the hard work begins and I'm sure that the Gold Coast will deliver.”

Bligh also credited her election promises as an important factor in the AFL's decision.

“Our decision to put $60 million toward a Gold Coast Stadium's redevelopment has been the catalyst for the AFL,” she said.

“Thousands of jobs and a whole new tourism opportunity for the Gold Coast go hand-in-glove with this announcement.

“This venture will deliver a massive boost for the local economy generating more than 350 jobs during construction and contributing $340 million over the next 10 years.”

While Demetriou wouldn't be drawn on local speculation that the team would be able to win its first flag within four seasons, Bligh didn't hold back.

“I don't have to be diplomatic like Andrew - I reckon four years is a conservative estimate,” she said.

GCFC's inaugural line-up will have their first official outing against Eastern Ranges at Carrara Stadium on Saturday, captained by Terranora's Marc Lock.

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