Friday night’s game may have fallen just short of our desired on-field result but the narrow loss should not take away from what was a successful venture to New Zealand for our second home game at Westpac Stadium, Wellington.
It was a unique week with players, coaches and staff flying over on the Tuesday for a Friday game.
We used that time as a club to really imbed ourselves into the Wellington community, with our club hitting the streets a couple of days out from the game to spread the word about the Saints and Australian football in general.
We had saturation coverage in the local New Zealand media with back page stories and lead items on the TV news all about the Australian game.
There has been some talk in the wider media about our crowd of 13,285 being a supposed failure. To me this is not the case, for a number of reasons. While it is a lower crowd than what we achieved in 2013, it was still an impressive number when put in the context that we are playing in one of football’s developing markets. Patience is stressed when we speak of attendance figures for expansion zones in Australia and it should be extended to the New Zealand venture. Additionally, the proximity of Easter to ANZAC Day was always going to be a factor.
We are taking the Australian game to a foreign country and while it will take time to develop, there is plenty of promise on that front. There are more than 40,000 New Zealand school children now playing football at a grassroots level, which will only benefit St Kilda as we continue to consolidate ourselves as New Zealand’s team.
Two New Zealand youngsters’ Joe Baker-Thomas and Giovanni Mountain-Silbery have joined the Saints as International Scholarship holders and are pursuing their football dreams with our club. As these two young men embark on a chance at an AFL career, they set an example for thousands of young Kiwi kids hoping to emulate them.
From a financial point of view, without going into specific details, our home game in Wellington represents a significant six figure contribution to our club. There are many commercial benefits to this venture and they will continue to grow with our commitment to New Zealand.
I would like to take this opportunity to extend a thank you to the City of Wellington, the AFL, AFLNZ, and our sponsors for their support. Without it we could not undertake this initiative.
To the staff, players and coaches of the Saints I offer a special thank you. Whilst the venture delivers extra benefits to our club it does create extra work and logistical issues and therefore only works with the dedicated commitment of our team, not just for the week of the game but throughout the year. On a similar note I have passed on our thanks to the Chairman of the Brisbane Lions for there efforts and support.
I would also like to especially acknowledge the supporters, whether they be the fans who flew over, the expats who took in a much-appreciated footy fix or the locals who are taking a curious interest in the game. We thank you for your support and we look forward to returning to Wellington in 2015.
To those supporters who could not make the trip we acknowledge that playing a home game overseas is a sacrifice. We thank you for your understanding and hope you are as equally proud that your club is willing to be create history through innovation. And of course we have the make-up game against the Tigers to look forward to (Round 22).
Each year we have learnt more about this initiative and how to improve all aspects and we welcome feedback in that regard. Plans are already being developed for next year’s game, which will fall on the traditional football day of a Saturday and will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing. This will be an enormous occasion and one that St Kilda is proud to be involved with.
We have some huge clashes on the horizon, including away to Hawthorn this week and home games against traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood. We would love to see you there. If you’re not a member, it is certainly not too late to join.
President – St Kilda Football Club