K rock Football

GFL open to other finals options

Kardinia Park on GFL Grand Final Day 2019. (Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens)

GMHBA Stadium’s future as the home of the Geelong Football League series is under a cloud with AFL Barwon not ruling out a return to league venues in 2021.

AFL Barwon’s three-year deal with the Kardinia Park Stadium Trust (KPST), which was signed in 2018, to play all finals at the venue has expired.

Region General Manager Will McGregor revealed talks with the KPST would likely commence in the next month.

However, he says there are a couple of options AFL Barwon is looking at.

“Around what an agreement might look like into the future (with KPST),” he said.

“Or whether or not, given that some facilities are getting some very good upgrades in the region, do we have the ability to take it back to a community-level venue.”

The KPST said it’s looking forward to working with AFL Barwon on a new agreement for 2021 and beyond.

“It is disappointing the Geelong community cannot enjoy local finals at GMHBA Stadium this year, but we look forward to working with AFL Barwon to secure future opportunities,” CEO Gerard Griffin said.

McGregor admits the financial cost of playing at GMHBA Stadium will be a consideration when dealing with the Trust.

“The Trust has been very supportive through those conversations of late, particular Gerard, of AFL Barwon and myself,” he said.

“And in relation to COVID, if we are in a similar environment, there is a view that, potentially, playing finals at GMHBA Stadium may be easier to manage because you’re able to control the flow of people and you’re able to separate them in an environment that’s safe.

“We need to monitor how COVID plays out. Hopefully, we don’t have to worry about the separation of crowds come next year.

One of the potential community options is a return to a revamped West Oval, with stage one of the $10m redevelopment of the North Geelong facility well underway.

The ground last held the GFL Grand Final in 1998 before the move back to Kardinia Park the following year.

West Oval has hosted the elimination and qualifying finals on occasions, while the 2013 semi-finals were also played at the venue.

“The fact that so many bodies have put in a large amount of investment into that, we need to look to support that investment,” McGregor said.

“We will definitely be looking at that as a finals venue into the future.

“One key element will be the bike track (removal) and where that sits – whether that be in stage one of the works or stage two – to make it (the ground) a bigger surface area and more suitable to finals footy.”

McGregor concedes the West Oval surface being at its best in September is a concern due to the high volume of traffic.

The venue is home to Geelong West Giants’ GFL and GDFL teams, with the club also fielding two senior women’s sides and numerous underage boys and girls teams.

“Whether or not the surface can withstand that level of participation and be fit for finals – because the surface at GMHBA Stadium is pristine,” he said.

McGregor said the GFL’s 12 clubs will be consulted, and if a krockfootball.com.au poll of presidents is anything to go by, AFL Barwon will be departing Kardinia Park.

Of the seven presidents who responded to the question on where they would prefer the GFL finals to be played – GMHBA Stadium or league venues – six favoured league venues.

Twitter: @tom_king79