The AFL is heading to the Far North for up to a month


Karlie Brady


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Cazaly’s AFL Stadium in Cairns. Image: AFL Cairns.

The Far North will stage at least three AFL Premiership games this year and host two AFL teams for up to a month under a new deal confirmed by the State Government today.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the games will be played in Cairns at Cazaly’s Stadium, however, the AFL has yet to decide who will be playing in those games, when they will occur, or where exactly in the region the teams will base their hubs.

“Having more teams and more games in Cairns will pump millions of dollars into the local economy and support jobs – helping us execute our plan for economic recovery,” the Premier said.

The current block of AFL fixtures finishes on 17 August and AFL Cairns believes the action in the Far North will commence after that.

AFL Cairns President, Gary Young, said with the situation in New South Wales continually changing, there could potentially be more games heading north.

“They (the AFL) are still working on the fixture for the next block and that will probably be announced in the next one to two weeks,” he said.

The idea of a Port Douglas hub had been floated recently and AFL Cairns Operations Manager Craig Lee said it is a potential, but it will be up the AFL to establish the needs of each club and where would be a suitable base for them.

“It’s not out of the question,” he said.

Regardless of if Port Douglas gets a share of the action, Port Douglas Crocs President, Barry Lea said having the AFL in the Far North will be great for the sport in the region.

“We missed having an AFL side play in Cairns last year and it wasn’t expected to happen again this year, but one of the winners of COVID is that Queensland has opened its arms to AFL,” he said.

“It's terrific that the Premier has come on board and recognised North Queensland as a destination for elite sport.

“It’s an opportunity for our local players to see stars in action and perhaps a chance for people up here not familiar with AFL, to witness the skill in our great game.

“And if they decide to travel a further 75 km up the road to Port Douglas, I’m sure it would make a wonderful hub environment to situate themselves in,” he said.

Between 2011 and 2018 the Gold Coast Suns played one regular-season game a year at Cazaly’s Stadium, facing off against the Tigers, the Bulldogs and the Kangaroos in that time.

Tourism Minister Kate Jones said major sporting events would be crucial to rebuilding Queensland’s economy and supporting local jobs.

“This will fill hotel rooms, create business for local suppliers and give a boost to the tourism economy,” she said.

“Never before has Cairns hosted so many AFL games in one season so to be able to bring three games and possibly four to the city is a real coup.”

Speaker of the Queensland Parliament and Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said today the deal was an important milestone in Far North Queensland’s economic recovery.

“AFL has a huge following right throughout Australia. This deal will enable us to show thousands of prospective tourists what they’ve got to look forward to if they book a holiday in the Far North during winter,” he said.

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