St Kilda wants permanent annual Anzac Day in NZ

ST KILDA expects an open-ended ticket from the AFL to play Anzac Day matches in Wellington from this year as the club begins the journey into the sport’s newest frontier.

The Saints will play Sydney on Anzac Day for the premiership points – the first league game to be held outside Australia – and foresee an arrangement where they play an Anzac Day game off-shore for at least the next 10-20 years.

So embraced with the concept, Saints chief executive Michael Nettlefold was open to the suggestion the game remained a permanent fixture.

“Clearly, this is the first step and we’d like to think it is long-term,” Nettlefold said.

“We’ve taken a long-term approach, investing a lot of time, effort and energy, and we’re doing that because we see the long-term prospect of working with New Zealanders, developing our business in New Zealand.

“My view, it would have a 10, 20-year framework.

“We have an obligation to keep developing our club and the club’s commercial interest, developing our culture, leadership and vision … we’re restless in our approach to do that.

“And this is good to be at the forefront of … it’s great for all of our club.”

The Saints have an agreement to play on Anzac Day for the next three years at Wellington’s 34,500-seat Westpac Stadium and will play an extra game for official points in August of 2014 and 2015. NAB Cup games are also planned.

But as the Saints forge a partnership with the Australian Defence Force and the New Zealand Defence Force, it’s Anzac Day they want to own, as much as Essendon and Collingwood has at the MCG.

The match will be telecast live on Fox Footy immediately after the Pies-Dons match.

“It’s a significant day, an historical game,” Nettlefold said.

“It’s the first game outside of Australia for premiership points and it will acknowledge the Anzac relationship between Australia and New Zealand.

“Our intention is to embrace Anzac Day quite significantly.

“We have a number of past players who lost their live in overseas conflicts in our 140-year history, we have a close working relationship with the ADF, they play their carnival at Moorabbin, we are doing work now with the ADF in some of our leadership and cultural programs, so our intention is to embrace it wholly.”

It’s anticipated the AFL’s two senior executives, Andrew Demetriou and Gillon McLachlan, will attend the game, while Prime Minister Julia Gillard will also be invited.

Nettlefold would not reveal the club’s projected windfall from playing in New Zealand – potentially upwards of $500,000 a game.

“It’s fully underwritten for us at the moment, but from a financial aspect we’re not quite sure where the returns are going to finish,” he said.

“We hope it’s going to be strongly positive because it’s commercially important for the club that it is.”

The Saints yesterday held a brief training session at the “Cake Tin”, the stadium where the game will be played, and reported that its surface was as good as any they had played/trained on.

© Mark Robinson, Herald Sun