“To think that a club – because it has only 35,000 or 40,000 members should be relocated – is just not sniffing reality.”
So said North Melbourne’s CEO Eugene Arocca this week in the latest attempt to reassure supporters the Kangaroos aren’t going anywhere (many have resigned themselves to this for some time now).
I’m not sure what Arocca and his administration are sniffing, because it’s becoming harder and harder to fathom just what North Melbourne represents, or where it’s headed.
When the club spurned the opportunity to guarantee their long term future by taking the AFL’s $100m carrot to relocate to the Gold Coast, I for one respected the ‘we’re North Melbourne or we’re nothing’ stance (which duly separated the club from some long time benefactors).
And it was somewhat surprising given the club, regarded for its innovation, had previously foregone the North Melbourne name for the ubiquitous freedom of the Kangaroos moniker, playing ‘home’ games everywhere in Australia it seemed but Kangaroo Island.
Of course, as we’ve seen recently with the captain of the submerged Costa Concordia, no one wants to be at the helm when a ship carrying thousands of passengers actually sinks.
So we probably shouldn’t be too surprised at renewed attempts to make ends meet via controversial deals in far off places.
But just to be clear, once again North Melbourne have ruled out relocation, despite a $5.4m three year deal to play a couple games a season at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval (now Blundstone Arena – the $22m redevelopment must elevate it to the curious ‘arena’ status).
And then there’s the $228,000 grant from the Ballarat City Council to facilitate practice matches at Eureka Stadium. I suppose at least given a little latitude Ballarat is technically ‘north’ of Melbourne.
The most contentious financial assistance comes via the AFL, especially when the Gold Coast edict from former North Melbourne player-cum-AFL boss Andrew Demetriou was ‘this is your final lifeline’.
Personally I don’t like to see football clubs with such rich histories fade away. And the morality of letting that happen whilst pumping millions upon millions into new franchises which may take decades to stand alone (if not fall over) is tough to defend.
But NESW Melbourne had their chance. By not going to the Gold Coast they engendered a bloated 18 club competition.
Now burdened by a $5m debt, they’re still leaning on others, including the AFL, to keep them above water. And by again spreading themselves around they risk further diluting their tenuous link to their North Melbourne brand which still holds some cache.
The simple fact of the matter, and it’s been the case for decades now, is that there’s just too many clubs in Melbourne. There must come a time soon when the AFL and the financially viable clubs’ patience will run out.
North must wish the Hawthorn road block in Tasmania went away, for it must surely be the next and final destination.