The AFL has confirmed the Gold Coast Suns will make the trip up to the Northern Territory as part of the 2017 season.
While the AFL is yet to finalise its fixture, it says both TIO Stadium (Darwin) and TIO Traegar Park (Alice Springs) will each host a match involving the Melbourne Football Club next year.
The Demons will host the Suns in Alice Springs for a twilight game on Saturday May 27 as part of Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round in round 10.
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Melbourne will then play the Adelaide Crows in Darwin as a night game on Saturday July 15 in round 17.
“AFL is a central part of the sporting, cultural and tourism life of the Northern Territory,” AFL Clubs Operations General Manager Travis Auld said.
“The AFL is the only sporting competition in Australia with a regular-season presence in every state and territory in the country, and we are delighted the Territory will again host two matches.
“Participation rates in our game within the NT are the highest for any state or territory in the country and NT has continued to produce champion players at the very top-end of our competition despite their smaller population base. Both games will again be strongly supported and, on behalf of the AFL competition, we thank Minister Moss for their government’s support,” he said.
Northern Territory Government Minister for Tourism and Culture Lauren Moss said it was a great result to confirm both matches for the 2017 season.
“This is a great result for Territory AFL fans and will ensure they get to see quality games live in two locations.
“The Northern Territory Government is extremely proud of our relationship with the Melbourne Demons and I would like to extend an early welcome to both the Adelaide Crows and Gold Coast Suns.
“The Northern Territory possesses one of the most passionate AFL supporter bases in the country and I look forward to working with the AFL, AFLNT and all teams to ensure our community gets the best possible AFL experience,’ the Minister said.
Melbourne Chief Executive Peter Jackson said his club was extremely pleased the two matches in the Territory had again been confirmed.
“We are really proud of this partnership. The people of the Northern Territory have an amazing passion for the game of AFL and we are excited to be part of this again, for what will be our seventh year in a row of playing games in the Northern Territory,” Mr Jackson said.
“Playing a game in the centre of Australia during Sir Doug Nicholls Round is a truly unique experience, which we want our supporters to share in. The physical setting of the game with the backdrop of the MacDonnell Ranges is something I would encourage all supporters to experience in person. That combined with the cultural significance of a place like Alice Springs adds up to a special occasion, which we are really looking forward to being a part of.
“This partnership also allows us to invest further into the community through the implementation of the Next Generation Academy, our continued work with Melbourne University’s trachoma elimination program and continuing to engage young students in our Read Like a Demon program.
“The Club enjoys a really strong relationship with the Northern Territory through our partnership with the NT Government and Tourism NT and we look forward to building on that in 2018,” he said.
Gold Coast Suns CEO Andrew Travis and Adelaide Crows CEO Andrew Fagan said their respective clubs welcomed the news they would be playing in NT in 2017.
“Playing Melbourne in Alice Springs is a great way for the Gold Coast Suns to celebrate Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round,” Mr Travis said.
“We are proud to boast seven Indigenous players on our list and our commitment to growing our Indigenous programs has never been stronger, highlighted by the Jarrod Harbrow Leadership Academy designed to build young leaders and footballers.”
Mr Fagan said the Crows welcomed news they were playing in Darwin.
“We already have strong ties to the Northern Territory through our women’s football partnership and are thrilled to have an opportunity to strengthen our involvement and importantly promote the game of football as well. We have a genuine and meaningful presence in the central corridor which will only grow stronger in the years ahead.”
The AFL has already confirmed the Suns will also head back to Cairns next year, this one against reigning premiers the Western Bulldogs in round 18.
While Suns recruit Pearce Hanley won’t have to wait long to face off against his former Brisbane Lions teammates with the first QClash scheduled for round one.
The full AFL fixture will be released later this week.