St Kilda will continue to lead an AFL presence in NZ despite a recent decision by the club and Wellington City Council (WCC) not to extend the partnership past the initial three-year agreement.
CEO Matt Finnis said the decision not to take up an option of a three-year extension was made following the conclusion of a review scheduled to occur after the 2015 Anzac Centenary game (the third year of the partnership).
This review had always been planned by both parties to occur after the 2015 event.
“We want to thank Council and everyone in Wellington who has supported the game for the past three years – it’s a great city and we have appreciated this partnership,” Finnis said.
“St Kilda is proud of the fact we delivered on everything we committed to for Wellington as part of this partnership, including more than $15 million in economic impact and over 8,500 Australian visitors over the past three years.
“In a city of around 400,000 people, we were able to attract on average 16,000 people per game and this year’s crowd of 12,125 - while lower than previous years - was still strong compared to local Wellington crowds.
“We appreciate the support Wellington City Council has given this event in the last three years that has helped grow the game in New Zealand.”
Finnis confirmed that the club and AFL are continuing positive discussions with a number of NZ cities and venues as part of their combined commitment to develop the game at all levels throughout NZ.
Speaking at a National Press Club lunch last month, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said the league wants to expand internationally and that New Zealand is clearly the priority market.
“We think there is a huge opportunity there,” McLachlan said.
St Kilda has played an annual AFL game in Wellington since 2013 and remains positive about the outcomes reached.
“One of the highlights was signing Porirua teenager Joe Baker-Thomas to an international rookie contract and we also created school programs, local competitions and opened new talent pathways,” Finnis said.