THERE is renewed enthusiasm for the game to return to New Zealand next year after positive discussions between St Kilda and the Wellington City Council this week.
There was recent uncertainty about the Saints’ deal to play home-and-away matches at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium until 2018, after a disappointing turnout in the round four clash against Carlton.
But the Saints met with the local council in Wellington this week to discuss the viability of the remaining three games scheduled in the city, and were buoyed by the response.
“I think there was that initial reaction to the crowd number but certainly since there’s been a bit more analysis done, it’s been more positive,” St Kilda chief operating officer Ameet Bains told AFL.com.au on Wednesday.
“We get the sense that everyone wants to continue; there hasn’t been any talk otherwise.
“It’s just a question of framing the commercial arrangements that sit around the game that we need to work through for the next few weeks.
“It’s going well. It will be a fairly considered process. Each of us has to conclude our own internal reviews.”
Bains and strategic projects manager Ben Davies met with the council, while the third party in the arrangement – the AFL – was involved in the lead up to the discussions.
This year’s game, which attracted 12,125 spectators, was the least attended in the Saints’ three Wellington ventures to date.
In 2013, the clash with the Sydney Swans drew a crowd of 22,546, and the following year 13,409 watched the Brisbane Lions record a three-point win.
While the crowd figure for the Blues’ game this year created immediate cause for concern, deeper analysis of the figures in the month following painted a better picture.
There were more travelling Australians in Wellington for the game than last year, and more tickets actually sold than given away.
“I think ultimately everyone was a bit disappointed with the crowd size given it was a decrease on the previous year,” Bains said.
“But now that we’ve had an opportunity to look at some of the data, it tells a much better story than you would have thought on first blush.”
Whether it remains an Anzac Day fixture and the proposed opponent for the next three games remain points of discussion.
In the next three years, Anzac Day will fall on a Monday through to a Wednesday, which produces additional challenges regarding when the teams would play the following week, and whether the crowd would be affected.
“It’s been a very good thing to have it on Anzac Day, particularly given the initial significance of the countries involved and certainly this year with the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli was brilliant,” Bains said.
“It’s certainly one of the discussion points, whether it’s Anzac Day weekend or Anzac Day in particular.”
The Saints plan to meet with the council again late next month to further discuss plans for the next three years.
Part of these talks will include what approach is taken with the opponent; whether the Blues or another team become the constant in an attempt to generate further traction, or if three new teams continue to rotate as the away club.