AFL’s best home away from home stories
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According to a recent article by Roar Guru Curtis Woodward, hell is freezing over at the prospect of the New Zealand Warriors playing home games across the ditch.
Woodward’s views got me thinking about this phenomenon in the AFL, and made me investigate the benefits associated with clubs playing at home while away from home.
So here is a list of some of my favourite (read that as ‘memorable’) foreign home games deals in the AFL from recent years. Some are belters, benefiting everyone, others were complete duds, and some left us wondering whether the club was just better off pulling a South Melbourne.
Richmond in Cairns
Hoooo boy, this is a good one. Not for Tigers fans, obviously. It’s rubbish for Tigers fans. But in a discussion on ‘just how bad can a deal get’, this one is comparable to bringing a knife to a gun fight.
Like so many bad ideas, it started out as a good one. But the cost of the deal could very well have outweighed any potential gains, and not only did the main proponents of the idea lose out, but the other side benefited.
Playing home at Cazaly Stadium netted Richmond a massive financial windfall. It also engaged a large population of footy-starved Victorian expats, and tapped into a new and growing market in the AFL – the ‘Footy game tropical holiday’ concept, championed by the ultimate winner from Richmond’s deal, the Suns. Good idea!
But, despite copping roughly $500,000 a game, the Tigers in 2012 possibly lost a finals berth after losing to the Suns, who not only won on the scoreboard but in the marketing world, furthering their exposure across Queensland.
I would not be surprised if the Suns announce a deal to play in Cairns from 2013 onwards and tap into a large, untapped market.
Kangaroos on Gold Coast
This arrangement lead to a crap-fight which was about as popular as dropping the North Melbourne bit from North Melbourne.
The name change, much like the switch from Footscray to the Western Bulldogs, was aimed at widening the team’s potential supporter base and opening new markets. Couple that with a two year deal to play games in another state, and you should have opened a pretty good window for cash and fans to flow through, yeah?
Well, maybe, but in this particular case the league tried to push a team through that metaphoric window.
The 2007 announcement that the AFL wanted a presence on the Gold Coast from 2010 was quickly followed by a massive novelty sized check arriving at Arden Street with a string attached.
Basically,the Kangaroos, who now had no North Melbourne affiliation by name and a board divided into factions, were offered a multi-million dollar cash carrot to increase their home games at the Gold Coast from a couple a year to 11 of them.
North’s presence on the Gold Coast was rejected, and so far so good for all concerned with the Suns doing well in this new market and the Kangas looking at some light at the end of a long and dark financial tunnel.
But this was a home away from home deal akin to your parents offering you cash to get a house thousands of miles away because you’ve become a drain on their pension funds.
Hawthorn in Launceston
This is undoubtedly the most positive move of recent years… for some. The Hawks have a shiny sponsor’s logo on their chest, a growing fan-base in a massively lucrative and passionate market, the support of the league and great record at their adopted home.
But for those who want to see a Tassie team in the comp any time soon (and that would include myself if I’m honest), this deal sucks.
North Melbourne’s move to Hobart, which at first resembled something of a relocation with four games a year being offered, has now further cemented the fate of any possible bid, unless North do eventually relocate to the Apple Isle.
Giants in Canberra
A brilliant move. An area with rich football heritage, Canberra has been home to a few teams over the years but never for a long period of time.
The Giants move into the Capital allows for an expanded fan-base for the emerging club, as well as giving the many expats and footy loving Canberrans (if that’s the right term, I’ve always just called them ‘politicians’) a new team to adopt. Or, at the very least, a regular roster of games played locally.
The deal for me is sealed by the Giants use of an alternate strip for use in the capital. This is brilliant marketing and further cements the Giants’ ownership over the region, as well as making another great collectable the footy tragics love to bid excessively over on EBay.
Port in the North
This is another mixed feelings one. For me, Port Adelaide Power playing games at TIO stadium is a brilliant move. I’ve written in the past on how this arrangement should be nurtured and indeed promoted further.
Port Adelaide moved from the SANFL to the AFL feeling they were a big fish in a small pond. Since this move, they’ve become a small fish in the same small pond, desperate for greater notoriety and cash inflow. A second home could be the answer.
The danger in a small fish playing in multiple ponds is that the aquarium master might just decide that the fish should stick to the unused pond to increase the viewing capacity for his customers. This incredibly convoluted metaphor comes with precedent – just take a look at the North Melbourne/Gold Coast affair.
These are my five favourite home away from home stories. Doubtless there are more, and I’d love to hear them.
This can be a prickly topic, and the whole concept is despised by many, so let’s here the opinions of Roarers on this while I warm my feet on the impending flame war.