AFL growth for Ipswich
IPSWICH will one day host home-and-away AFL games, according to AFL Queensland chief executive Michael Conlan.
The former Fitzroy champion yesterday spoke exclusively to the QT about the AFL's plans to embrace the western corridor.
"Ipswich is the number one priority for AFL in Queensland," Conlan said.
"Australian football was one of the first codes played in Ipswich in the late 1800s and it's been neglected for too long."
Conlan, who was hand-picked by AFL powerbrokers to grow the game in the sunshine state, said he could see a day where new community and sporting precincts in both Springfield and Ipswich would host pre-season and eventually home-and-away AFL games.
And there is plenty of substance behind the claims with Conlan confirming a new AFLQ office will be open in Ipswich in the new year.
"When I began here seven months ago I was shocked to hear a region with 180-190,000 people had one football club," Conlan said.
"The population is growing at a rapid rate and we are about spreading our game to everyone so we can't ignore that size a population centre.
"We are putting two permanent and three more rotating staff in an office in the Ipswich Sports House from January 1.
"They will be working closely with both local clubs and council to grow the game and strengthen our clubs. We have a lot of work to do there but we are very excited about getting underway."
The new AFLQ office is just the first step in a grand growth plan.
Conlan is working closely with the Ipswich City Council and Springfield Land Corporation about the development of a high performance dedicated AFL venue at Springfield.
The land on Springfield Parkway is also in the sights of the Brisbane Lions as the club's elite training centre and Conlan would love to see the AFL club move west.
"I met with Michael Voss and Lions officials this week and the first question Michael asked was 'What was our plan for the western corridor?'," Conlan said.
"The Lions and the AFL recognise how important the region is but regardless of the Lions' final decision AFLQ wants a top notch AFL facility there."
Conlan also said a second dedicated AFL venue in Ipswich is a must if the game is to grow and existing clubs such as the Ipswich Eagles must have access to a facility all year round.
"I'm disappointed we weren't more involved in the planning and development of the new Tivoli complex because unfortunately it now doesn't meet our needs,'' he said.
Conlan also dismissed thought that the AFL would share the Springfield site with an NRL club if given the opportunity to develop a facility.
"The idea of shared facilities is nice but in reality there are hurdles," he said.
"The size of an AFL ground means it's not really suitable for the other football codes and the reality of football clubs these days is they use their venues 12 months a year."