The St Kilda Saints will visit Wellington in January, and the AFL will place two fulltime staff in the city, as preparations step up for next year’s historic Anzac Day clash with the Sydney Swans.
The Westpac Stadium match will be the first time an AFL game has been played for premiership points outside Australia and all parties are working hard behind the scenes to ensure it is a success.
The AFL’s international development manager, Tony Woods, was in Wellington on Monday and Tuesday and held further talks with broadcast partners in Auckland yesterday.
“It’s a massive undertaking and one that’s going to require a lot of time and effort,” Woods said. “So trips to Wellington will become a lot more frequent over the coming months.”
The AFL will have staff working in Wellington by late January or early February to promote the game and co-ordinate planning.
Woods believes a sellout of the 34,500 stadium is achievable and promised pricing would be affordable for curious Kiwis.
“We’ve got to connect with the Wellington and New Zealand community. There is a lot riding on it. We only get one chance to play this historic first game outside of Australia, and Wellington is the place we’ve chosen. So we’ve got a vested interest in it being a success.”
The AIS, an elite Australian academy team will play against the New Zealand Hawks senior team in Wellington in late January, coinciding with a visit from St Kilda.
Saints players will participate in community activities and tickets will also go on sale.
The fact the Swans are the reigning champions adds extra lustre to the occasion.
“The Swans were fantastic this year and we’d expect them to be challenging for the title again next year,” Woods said.
“Their games against St Kilda were really strong and competitive games, so we’re expecting a pretty tight contest. While it’s very much a St Kilda home game and St Kilda’s leading the charge in New Zealand, the Swans are very excited about the opportunity to come across and play too.”
© Fairfax NZ News by Sam Worthington