Harrup Park’s bid to host AFL matches in Mackay
MACKAY community leaders have backed an ambitious bid from Harrup Park Country Club to host AFL fixtures at Great Barrier Reef Arena as soon as the end of the month.
Mayor Greg Williamson and Mackay Tourism CEO Tas Webber have written to AFL Queensland CEO Dean Warren in support of the bid, which seeks to attract AFL clubs currently 'hubbed' in southeast Queensland to Mackay.
Six Victorian clubs were forced to relocate to Queensland this week as state border closures threatened to derail the AFL season.
St Kilda, Carlton, North Melbourne, Richmond, Essendon and the Western Bulldogs joined Adelaide, Port Adelaide, West Coast and Fremantle as interstate clubs now calling the Sunshine State home.
The South Australian and West Australian clubs are set to return home after Round 6, leaving the aforementioned six Victorian clubs and the Lions and Suns based in Queensland.
The AFL currently has fixtures scheduled to the end of Round 7, on July 20.
With eight clubs in southeast Queensland vying for 'home games' at just two traditional venues - Brisbane's Gabba and Gold Coast's Metricon Stadium - Harrup Park CEO Matt Cielens believes now is the perfect time to bring the AFL to Mackay.
"While we understand that AFL clubs and matches over the next short period are assigned to be hosted on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Brisbane, we would be very keen for Mackay to be considered for any future hosting opportunities as the season progresses in these uncertain times," Mr Cielens said.
"We are keen to explore all opportunities in relation to providing our Great Barrier Reef Arena facilities for this purpose, with the strong support of Mackay Regional Council and Mackay Tourism."
The venue has previously played host to AFL pre-season matches and AFLW fixtures.
Most recently, the Gold Coast Suns and Geelong Cats AFLW sides played off under lights at Great Barrier Reef Arena on March 6 this year.
Cr Williamson said the region was "very much open for business" and Mackay Regional Council was pleased to support Great Barrier Reef Arena's expression of interest proposal.
"The Great Barrier Reef Arena has the capability of hosting elite level AFL matches, with demonstrated success in recent years with both AFLW and AFL pre-season matches played under lights in Mackay," he said.
"The broadcast lighting and field quality at Great Barrier Reef Arena are equal to the best match hosting conditions in Queensland."
Mr Webber said the "travel promotion generated by elite level AFL matches would be hugely beneficial for the tourism industry, especially at a time when boosting both regional and intrastate travel is paramount".
"The Mackay region has been COVID-free for months and can provide a COVID-safe venue," he said.
"Mackay can offer modern and well-managed accommodation and training facilities to AFL players and staff, with all Mackay Tourism members and operators implementing COVID-safe practices into their business."