THE push is on to bring an AFL pre-season game back to Bendigo’s Queen Elizabeth Oval next year.
The QEO last hosted an AFL pre-season game in March, 2009, when Essendon clashed with North Melbourne.
The City of Greater Bendigo and AFL Central Victoria are working together to end the drought, with a submission having been sent to the AFL expressing interest in a game being played at the QEO next year.
“We’ve had officials from the AFL visit the QEO and felt the meeting was positive,” council’s active and healthy communities manager Pat Jess said on Wednesday.
“We haven’t received any official response from the AFL yet, other than we do meet the guidelines in regards to facilities and will be considered among other applications.
“We expect to know the outcome by October and that the match would be likely to fall in late February or early March.”
Among the improvements to the QEO since the last AFL game in 2009 was a major surface upgrade as part of $2.2 million works at the venue during 2011.
“We’re certainly optimistic about our chances,” Jess said.
“The facilities have been upgraded for this kind of use. The changerooms, spectator facilities and surface all meet requirements.
“The only thing we would have to do from an infrastructure perspective is bring in some more portable toilets, but overall, it ticks the boxes and the sense we’re getting is positive.
“It will have been six years since the last AFL match in Bendigo, which is too long.”
AFL Central Victoria regional manager Paul Hamilton said not only would an AFL pre-season match be a spectacle in Bendigo, but important for the development of the game.
“As of next year, it will have been six years since the last game, and in the period since there has been an upgrade to the QEO,” Hamilton said.
“We’re very keen to attract a match up here, which is important for the game development side of things as much as anything.
“The wheels have been put in motion and the council is very supportive of it, so hopefully, something will come of it.
“But the AFL hasn’t announced yet what the format will be for its NAB Cup next year, so that’s why we think there will still be a bit of time before we find out if we’ll get a regional game.
“We feel we’ll be in a reasonably good position because we do have a good facility in the QEO.”
If the QEO is granted an AFL game next pre-season, it would likely impact on the Bendigo District Cricket Association, which has played its past two first XI grand finals at the QEO.
“The BDCA is aware of our application and we’ll work with them once we know more about how they could be affected in their scheduling,” Jess said.
Meanwhile, the Loddon Valley Football League has announced its finals venues.
The grand final was due to be hosted by Pyramid Hill.
But with the Bulldogs to potentially go deep into the finals courtesy of a likely top three finish, the grand final has been shifted to Mitiamo.
The grand final will be played on September 13.
• Finals venues:
Qualifying final: YCW.
Second semi: Newbridge.
First semi: Bridgewater.
Grand final: Mitiamo.