Quake shakes Wellington ahead of Anzac clash

A SIZEABLE earthquake rocked New Zealand 24 hours after St Kilda and Carlton touched down in Wellington ahead of Saturday’s clash at Westpac Stadium.

It was the second earthquake in as many days but measured much stronger than the first, at a magnitude of 6.2 on the Richter scale and at a depth of 52km.

While it was located at the north of the South Island, 35km south-east of St Arnaud, it was classified as “severe” and strongly felt throughout Wellington, almost 200km away on the North Island.

Both clubs are staying in the Wellington CBD and a few players tweeted about feeling the tremors that lasted about 30 seconds, after returning to their hotels after their respective training sessions at Westpac Stadium.

There were no reports of serious damage but telecommunication services in Wellington were disrupted and trains were briefly suspended.

There were a series of mild aftershocks in the hours following but none were felt significantly in the heart of Wellington.

Unexpected earth tremors notwithstanding, the Saints will meet with Wellington City Council in the coming weeks to discuss the prospect of making the club’s Anzac Day fixture “more permanent”.

The Saints are currently locked in to host a home-and-away game on April 25 until at least 2018, and will play their third match at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.

“We’ve had a great time here, we think the relationship’s strong and the interest in the game keeps growing so we’re keen to continue that on,” chief operating officer Ameet Bains said on Friday.

“Based on the experience we’ve had so far, we’d like to build this into something more permanent and really build our connection engagement with Wellington and New Zealand more generally.”

This year’s game has been met with some challenges not lost on the club; namely the absence of big name players like Nick Riewoldt and Carlton’s Chris Judd, and both clubs’ on-field struggles.

“It makes it a little bit more difficult but I think in this early stage when the local audience is really familiarising themselves with the game, the opponent makes a difference but it’s not as critical as it might be in years to come,” Bains said.

But an unseasonal burst of warm weather has the Saints optimistic of a decent crowd – bigger than last year’s of 13,409 – with some hopes of attracting up to 17,000.

Bains said ticket sales had been “positive compared to last year” with the 1.10pm local start time appealing to fans after two previous night games.

“I think with the daytime fixture as well and more family-friendly conditions with the weather looking after us as well, there should be a decent walk-up tomorrow,” he said.

“We’re certainly hoping to exceed last year’s total but we’ll be a stretch to get to year one [of 22,546].”

While extending the partnership to include a second premiership season game looks unlikely, there’s the possibility of New Zealand hosting a pre-season match as well as the Anzac Day fixture in years to come.

The Saints have played three clubs in Wellington – the Sydney Swans in 2013, the Brisbane Lions in 2014 and Carlton this year.

No decision has been made on whether they will continue to change the opponent on a yearly basis, but Bains said the idea of forging a permanent Anzac Day fixture against the same opposition had merit.

“I think if there’s something meaningful upon which we can build a fixture with one particular club, I think it gives you some traction to do that,” he said.

“I guess there’s also been an element of wanting to be the home team here as well and to be the side the locals support so I guess that’s something we’ll continually review.

“There are a lot of elements that go into which particular team could be fixtured here with their other commitments and travel and the like.”