Bunbury Mayor Gary Brennan throws support behind proposal to include City in WA-based AFL finals hub

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Jackson BarrettSouth Western Times
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PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 25: General view during the 2018 AFL round 01 match between the West Coast Eagles and the Sydney Swans at Optus Stadium on March 25, 2018 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Daniel CarsonAFL Media)
Camera IconPERTH, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 25: General view during the 2018 AFL round 01 match between the West Coast Eagles and the Sydney Swans at Optus Stadium on March 25, 2018 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Daniel CarsonAFL Media) Credit: AFL Media

Bunbury is believed to be a shock location for a potential AFL hub, should all eight teams be rushed to WA to play this year’s finals series.

The league is working through options for allowing the season to resume as the growing COVID-19 crisis in the eastern states makes travel difficult and having supporters at games unthinkable in some cities.

Bunbury has been listed by Tourism WA as one of eight potential locations for a hub, should the four-week finals series be played in Perth — with a team based in Bunbury likely to stay and train in the region before travelling to Optus Stadium for games.

Bunbury City Mayor Gary Brennan has thrown his support behind the proposal, and said the City is willing and ready to host a club, should it be required.

“Attracting an AFL club to Bunbury would have great social and economic benefits, including on retail and hospitality, along with providing promotional opportunities for our wonderful City,” he said.

“I would anticipate fans coming from the South West to see training and if there was the possibility of coaching sessions for kids, that would be wonderful.

“It would greatly enhance our reputation as a sporting hub as Bunbury already hosts a number of State and national sporting events, thanks largely to its partnership with Sports Marketing Australia.

“Any additional elite level games or events we can attract to Bunbury would be greatly welcomed.”

South West Football League grand final day at Hands Oval in Bunbury.
Camera IconSouth West Football League grand final day at Hands Oval in Bunbury.

He also said the infrastructure, particularly at the region’s flagship football venue, Hands Oval, is available and up to the elite standard.

“Bunbury has the sporting facilities to host elite level sporting events, including AFL,” Mr Brennan said.

“Hands Oval is the home of the South West Football League and while the infrastructure is out-dated, the oval itself is definitely suitable to host elite games or training sessions.

“We also have to other AFL grounds in Bunbury (Payne Park and Kelly Park) and I am very confident each of the home clubs would welcome AFL teams to train at their grounds.

“Bunbury has a plethora of amazing accommodation and hospitality options to host sporting teams and is located a safe and easy commute to Optus Stadium.”

If it was to be included as part of a WA-based finals series, it would the first glimpse the region’s footy fans have had of travelling AFL clubs since the most recent pre-season game in the region, when Fremantle hosted the Western Bulldogs at Hands Oval in 2011.

Carlton legend Chris Judd runs onto Hands Oval with Carlton teammates ahead of their pre-season clash with Fremantle in 2009.
Camera IconCarlton legend Chris Judd runs onto Hands Oval with Carlton teammates ahead of their pre-season clash with Fremantle in 2009. Credit: Mal Fairclough/WA News, Mal Fairclough

South West Football League president Barry Tate also backed the move, saying he was confident clubs would “open their doors”, should the opportunity arise.

“If the City of Bunbury support it, we are 100 per cent behind their support,” he said.

“It can only be good for the area and good for the community.

“We are more than happy for us to be included and involved where we can and help — it will put the South West on the map Australia-wide.

“Overall, clubs should open their doors and embrace the situation because it is probably only once in a lifetime this might happen.”

The major factor in WA’s favour is confidence that local footy fans will fill the 60,000-capacity Optus Stadium, providing the AFL a revenue windfall from ticket sales.

It’s understood WA’s proposal, which also includes in-put from VenuesWest, WA Police and the Health Department, could be submitted as early as next week.

Bunbury and Mandurah are the two regional locations mooted, as well as locations in and around Perth, including Joondalup Resort, The Vines and Crown.

Sports Minister Tony Buti confirmed the AFL was keen for Perth to be a possible destination for the finals, but the hope was Victoria’s outbreak would be brought under control so the grand final could be played at the MCG on September 25.

“We did successfully manage the Dreamtime game here (between Richmond and Essendon) and the fact that we can have major games here and that we can be in the picture for AFL finals is because of the leadership of this government in controlling the COVID-19 situation,” he told Parliament.

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