Saints, Blues look to annual Anzac Day clash in NZ

ST KILDA and Carlton are open to making the Anzac Day clash in New Zealand an annual match-up if this year’s centenary clash is a success.

The Saints have led the AFL’s charge across the Tasman, hosting Anzac Day matches against the Sydney Swans and Brisbane Lions at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium the past two seasons.

This year’s match should be boosted, however, by the presence of two Melbourne-based rivals with the Saints and Blues announcing plans to honour two past players killed on the first day of the Gallipoli battle.

Carlton coach Mick Malthouse said the clubs had an opportunity to start a new annual match-up as Collingwood and Essendon have done with their Anzac Day clash, which marks its 20-year anniversary this year.

“I hope this is something that can be moulded into the future between the two clubs,” Malthouse said at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance on Thursday, marking 100 days until Anzac Day.”I’m not here to tell the League what to do, and certainly with St Kilda they own the game at this stage and there’s no doubt they should.

“We’ve seen the Essendon-Collingwood game here and if it works … I’d treat it as a great privilege to be part of it each year.

“It is a great opportunity to experience that feeling when you play or coach or be part of it and it should never be regarded as just a right … it’s a real privilege.”

St Kilda is understood to be open to locking in a regular opponent to play in New Zealand each year but will first monitor the success of this year’s clash.

The 2012 match against the Sydney Swans, which fell on a Thursday, drew 22,546 fans while last year’s match against the Lions on a Friday night drew 13,409.

When fixturing this year’s match, the AFL was unaware of the club’s significant shared history, which will now form a key part of commemorations.

Former VFL players Claude Crowl (St Kilda) and Fen McDonald (Carlton) both died on April 25, 1915, when the Anzacs first stormed the beach at Gallipoli.

The two men not only lost their lives on the same day in Gallipoli, but they also made their VFL debut against each other at Princes Park in 1911.

“It’s quite incredible and humbling to think that 100 years ago to the day when we play our game in New Zealand, those two young men and many others were killed at Gallipoli,” St Kilda coach Alan Richardson said.

“They were just 22 and 23 years of age which is the average age of an AFL player.”