Darwin could get AFL competition during pandemic
DARWIN is a clear frontrunner for a new AFL plan that would see up to 10 clubs based in the Top End for two months as part of its bold proposal to restart the football season.
The NT News can reveal AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan wrote to Chief Minister Michael Gunner on Thursday, asking if the NT Government would be open to an AFL hub being based in Darwin.
Darwin is among several regions being considered. Others places that have been touted include Perth and the Swan Valley in WA, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Geelong, Southeast Queensland and Hobart and Launceston in Tasmania.
In his letter, Mr McLachlan outlined a proposal that would see up to 600 players and staff undergo a stringent isolation and testing regime before being flown to Darwin on chartered flights.
They would then be placed in "Olympic-style villages" to be established at Darwin hotels, and bussed to TIO Stadium for games.
Clubs would bring their own medical teams and pay for their own testing kits.
"We would like to explore the opportunity to work with the Northern Territory Government to establish a Hub in or (around) Darwin for approximately eight weeks with up to 600 people," Mr McLachlan wrote.
"This would involve eight or ten AFL Clubs, playing matches out of TIO Stadium and a secondary venue."
It's understood the AFL was lukewarm on an initial proposal for a Darwin hub that was floated earlier this month.
But the low number of cases in the NT, coupled with no recorded community transmission, has seen Darwin's prospects improve significantly.
The viability of the plan hangs on winning the support of the NT Government and Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie.
If that support can be achieved, the AFL is eyeing a resumption of matches from mid-June, although this date could be moved forward if the number of reported coronavirus cases remains low in the NT.
This timeline would have games being played in the middle of the Darwin dry season.
At this stage, the AFL is planning to stage the matches without crowds, with the expectation the ban on mass gatherings will remain in place for much of this year.
The hub proposal would see up to 28 games played over the first five weeks before the plan is reassessed.
TIO Stadium alone could have the capacity to host this number of games.
Games would be broadcast live to a national television audience of millions.
One of the biggest obstacles to a Darwin hub could be finding appropriate accommodation to be used as a village.
The AFL has said its ideal model is to have quarantined villages.
The Inpex village at Howard Springs was suggested in early discussions but there are a range of other options.
One option now being discussed is the Mindil Beach Casino Resort which could be coupled with the Gardens Oval precinct, allowing players to train across the road from their accommodation.
Other potential options include the Club Tropical Resort at Lee Point, the Darwin Waterfront and hotels along the Esplanade.
Originally published as AFL boss writes to Gunner about basing 10 clubs here