THE Far North remains in the picture to host AFL games in 2018 despite the Western Bulldogs yesterday declaring they would no longer bring “home” games to Cairns.
The AFL’s reigning premiers will take two games to Ballarat from next year, ruling out the opportunity to extend their stay in Cairns into a fifth year.
The most likely option for Cazalys Stadium hosting a game in 2018 is a relocated Gold Coast Suns game, with the club set to be without their home ground of Metricon Stadium due to the Commonwealth Games.
“We have enjoyed wonderful support from local fans and we look forward to North Queensland hosting future AFL matches,” AFL general manager of clubs Travis Auld said.
“The details of the 2018 Toyota Premiership Season fixture, including the teams competing, will be determined as part of our annual fixturing process, which will be concluded and announced at the end of October.”
The Suns will need to move four games early next year with the Gabba, a Gold Coast ground and North Queensland being considered.
The Suns have also committed to playing an AFLW game in North Queensland if they are obtain a licence.
The Suns could host the Bulldogs after four years of the roles being reversed with ‘Dogs CEO Gary Kent telling AFL.com.au while the club won’t be seeking a home game in Queensland in the future, the Bulldogs are keen to be involved as an away team.
“Having two games in Ballarat and trying to keep a home game in Cairns will be quite difficult,” Kent said.
“We said to the AFL we’d like to keep playing up there but preferably as the away team from next year onwards.
“We’d love to keep supporting Cairns, we’ve had great support there from the locals and our fans travelling up.”
AFL Cairns Managing Director Gary Young thanked the Bulldogs for supporting the sport in the Far North for the last four seasons and is optimistic games will continue in 2018.
“We just need to focus on the new opportunities and we will work with our partners and stakeholders towards that,” Young said.
“The Commonwealth Games is an option and the AFL will work through that.
“We have indicated to the AFL that we are keen to continue to host premiership matches and we will work with them.
“We will support whichever team is bringing AFL games to Cairns … they are great for the economy in terms of flights, hotels and hospitality as the Bulldogs brought up almost 1300 to Cairns this year.”
Almost 1000 more punters than the 2016 fixture crammed in to watch this year’s match.