Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Can the Expansion Work? the AFL Pulled out All the Stops Last Week as It Took Its First Major Steps into Its Brave New Sporting World

Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Can the Expansion Work? the AFL Pulled out All the Stops Last Week as It Took Its First Major Steps into Its Brave New Sporting World

Article excerpt

Byline: ROGER VAUGHAN AND JAMES DAMPNEY

The AFL colossus took a figurative deep breath last week, flexed its considerable muscle and put on show arguably the biggest gamble in the code's history.

In 20 years' time, historians will look at November 16-18, 2010, as the point where the league started going to a whole new level.

Or the week will go down as the grand unveiling of a mighty two-pronged gambit that, in retrospect, was never really going to work.

On Tuesday night last week, the AFL officially launched its 18th team, the Greater Western Sydney Giants, who will join the league in 2012. A day later, the AFL caravan kept heading north and descended on the Gold Coast for the league's industry conference, followed by the national draft.

More than anything, the league's South-East Queensland events were a promotional exercise for its 17th team, the Gold Coast Suns, who debut next season.

So far, the signs are good a Gold Coast are a young, impressive organisation. They appear ready and they have a lot going for them.

And whatever you think of the GWS colours and Israel Folau's potential as an AFL player, coach Kevin Sheedy is the ideal man for the job as chief spruiker.

But it's like the Suns taking David Swallow as their No.1 draft pick, only on a far greater scale a no-one can know right now whether the right decision has been made.

The AFL can pump as much money and resources as they like into the Suns and Giants.

The risks are still numerous and profound.

Gold Coast have given themselves every chance and are in a market that already has a healthy Australian rules presence.

What stands out already is the Suns are behaving like an AFL club, not as a nervous newcomer.

A great example is the brilliant strategy during trade week, when they effectively double-dipped into their generous recruiting concessions.

Any rival club who lost an uncontracted player to Gold Coast gained a compensation draft pick, which is valid until 2014.

The Suns targeted those compensation picks and gained a handful, which they have warehoused.

In short, they have extended the year-one concessions.

Gold Coast should be the easier of the two expansions, but how will they cope when, inevitably, their many young players struggle in the first couple of seasons?

What happens if the Suns soar and the stuttering Brisbane Lions, just up the highway, descend into a prolonged slump?

The whole point of the exercise for the Suns and Giants is to have two solid teams in one market.

There remains an argument that South-East Queensland and Greater Sydney are just not ready for that. Maybe the regions never will be ready.

Still, an obvious advantage for GWS, by far the tougher of the two expansions, is they will learn from Gold Coast's experiences. …

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