Trio aims for Aussie Rules team in Blackwater
EMERALD is a prime Aussie Rules location, according to AFL Queensland chief executive Michael Conlan.
Conlan, along with AFL North Queensland development manager Craig Starcevich and AFL Queensland development manager Troy Clarke, toured the region earlier this week, looking at the potential to develop Aussie Rules at a grass roots level.
"We get excited to drive into towns and see Australian Rules goal posts. It's a rare find in Queensland versus southern states," Conlan said.
"Our goal is to have Aussie Rules posts up in every town in Queensland."
The trio stopped in Blackwater, Emerald, Dysart and Moranbah on their way to Mackay for the North East Australian Football League Anzac Day clash between the Brisbane Lions Reserves and the Gold Coast Suns Reserves.
The sight of the grounds and facilities at the Emerald Showgrounds did not disappoint, and Conlan said the aim was to bring an NEAFL game here by 2015.
"It's a great ground. We could nearly play a game here tomorrow," Conlan said, a sentiment echoed by Starcevich and Clarke, who wasted no time in having a closer inspection.
"The ground looks to be in really good nick."
Comparing Emerald to other grounds down in the south-east, like Labrador and Mt Gravatt, he said Emerald definitely had the better surface, seating and amenities.
The only change Conlan sighted was the goal posts, which would have to be brought into regulation with the legal size.
"We would love to ignite and bring Aussie Rules football back to the region," Conlan said.
"Queensland is the fastest-growing Aussie Rules state in Australia.
"Equal second, Victoria is number one and Western Australia and Queensland is second, with New South Wales a close third."
Conlan firmly believes by 2030 the code will have 350,000 participants, based on growth factors.
He said participation started young with the Auskick program, after
which participants were encouraged to join a club and hopefully start a long journey with Aussie Rules.
The trio stopped in Blackwater prior to Emerald and noted the oval seemed like no one was playing on it.
Conlan said Auskick program was held there in recent weeks with 80 participants attending.
"We'd like to think we can develop a local team in Blackwater," he said
"It's something to follow up. The population is here - they are just not playing Aussie Rules football.
"Queensland and New South Wales are traditionally strong rugby states. We are not thinking we'd come in and take participation from other sports.
"It's about providing opportunities to play other sports."
Conlan said after the tour he would be sitting down with his game development team and manager to talk about the next steps for bringing Aussie Rules to the Central Highlands.