AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has hailed the historic Shanghai match as a resounding success, saying the only negative was the one-sided result.
Blocks of empty seats on the outer wing at Jiangwang Stadium were obvious on the TV coverage and they sparked social media commentary.
The warm conditions were hazy, without being oppressive, and overall it could not have gone better.
A sold-out crowd of 10,118 – fans from Australia, expats and a small but enthusiastic local contingent – watched Port Adelaide maul Gold Coast by 72 points.
Port coach Ken Hinkley and his Suns counterpart Rodney Eade said post-match they would be happy to return.
“It was obviously a really pleasing day for football, for Port Adelaide, for our game – a good crowd, the venue looked amazing and it came up well on broadcast,” McLachlan said.
The key now is what Chinese authorities make of the experiment.
Above anything else, the first AFL game for premiership points outside of Australia and NZ spearheads Port’s bid to secure sponsorship dollars in the country.
“We think we’ve invested for the long-term here – we’ll continue to work with the local authority and the layers of government in this country,” McLachlan said.
“But today’s been a big success, I’m sure they would have enjoyed today.”
There was plenty of pre-game criticism, with concerns about air quality and logistics, as questions why the AFL was going ahead with a game in China.
“Everyone sees the opportunity in China and they certainly see it clearer today,” McLachlan said.
“Like all progress, people see obstacles when things are harder.
“People (now) see a clearer path and maybe an easier path.”
McLachlan said the empty sections in the grandstand were due to fans in those sections having access to nearby corporate marquees.
He noted all the public seating areas were full and, if anything, the AFL will look to increase the ground capacity given tickets sold out in two hours.
“There are challenges here – all the tickets were sold and then you have down that end, left of screen, some corporate marquees,” McLachlan said.
“‘So a lot of people would have been in there, eating and drinking.”
Eade said he would want to return so Gold Coast can redeem themselves.
But the Suns are yet to decide whether they will commit again.
“There’s a first-mover advantage, clearly, and I think it’s a question for Gold Coast,” McLachlan said.
“If they do (want to return), I think they’re in a good position, without any guarantees.”
There was widespread praise for the ground surface and McLachlan said the league would make sure it is maintained.
“They’ll have the best frisbee turf in the world,” he said.