AFL look for long-term New Zealand growth

New Zealand is the next frontier for the AFL – in the short term and beyond. The AFL want to start attracting elite Kiwi sportsmen into the draft.

The league will make history on Anzac Day next year when St Kilda play Sydney in Wellington – the first match for premiership points outside Australia.

Their short-term priority remains ensuring the success of the Gold Coast and GWS expansion teams.

But AFL chief operating officer Gil McLachlan said on Wednesday that the game’s bosses have thought about the potential of the NZ experiment.

“Long-term, who knows where it goes – I think there’s 30,000 registered AFL players in NZ right now,” he said.

“The dream maybe is that one day you could have a team over there, that’s the long-term future.

“There’s no time frame, it’s just a dream, but in the short term it’s taking our product into NZ, our near neighbour.

“It would be wonderful to have some talented kids coming out of NZ, being drafted.”

McLachlan added it made sense to expand the AFL into NZ.

“The time zone works, the travel works, they have a similar-minded, sports-mad group of people who will get behind our game,” he said.

“It’s just incredibly exciting, playing a game in NZ.

“It’s a real reflection about the growth and scale of our game … I’m optimistic we’ll sell that game out.

“To see a game played for premiership points in another country is a big step for this code.”

In addition to the Anzac Day clash between the Saints and the Swans, the AFL have committed to playing two games in NZ in both 2014 and 2015.

Originally published by Roger Vaughan, © AAP 2012