By David Nagel
The South East Football Netball League’s showcase event will be held under lights after its governing body – AFL South East – announced a night grand final to be held at Casey Fields on Saturday 16 September.
AFL South East Region general manager John Anderson made the announcement on Thursday, and said the decision to move to a night grand final at a neutral venue felt right – and it simply made sense.
“There were two stages involved,” said Anderson, who took over the AFL South East role from Jeremy Bourke at the start of the year.
“First, I was curious to know why the league wasn’t playing its grand final at its premium venue.
“There were differing reasons for that, but once we overcame those it all came down to common sense, it was a no-brainer really. AFL South East already has a grand final on the same day with the Nepean League playing at Frankston Park, and the neighbouring Ellinbank and West Gippsland leagues also share the same timeslot.
“It just wasn’t great programming. This divides all the clashes and will allow a great crowd to attend.”
Anderson said the decision was based primarily on showcasing the event, not capitalising on a financial windfall for the league.
“The primary reason for the decision is to showcase our premium product at our premium venue,” he said.
“It should be a terrific spectacle, the lights are strong enough for us to televise and it’s a great facility at Casey Fields. As far as the finances go, we haven’t crunched the numbers just yet but there will be some significant costings and we’re not sure exactly what the financial result will be.”
Those costs are expected to include bolstered security, with a night grand final sure to attract some patrons who have enjoyed the hospitality at earlier events.
Anderson said some opportunities will be available for clubs in SEFNL to also benefit from a night grand final at a neutral venue.
The Nepean and Peninsula leagues have conducted grand finals at the neutral venue of Frankston Park for many years, with the opportunity of providing food and beverage open for tender to affiliated clubs.
“At Frankston Park there are certain arrangements we have to deal with, with the host club and organisations involved, and that will be no different at Casey Fields,” Anderson said.
“We will undertake a similar process with the Casey Demons but I’m sure opportunities will present themselves to the competing clubs in SEFNL. And it’s not just with the food and alcohol at the football, the netball also needs to be taken into consideration.”
The venue for the netball has raised discussion, and the ire of some netball stalwarts, with the courts at Casey Fields being further removed from the football than at previous grand final venues since the league first started in 2005. All SEFNL netball grand finals, as well as reserves and under-19 football grand finals will be played at Casey Fields during the day, with senior football to follow.
“There was a bit of pushback from netball,” Anderson acknowledged.
“The concern was that the courts are a little bit away from the football, but I think everything is close enough where people will be able to watch some great netball action and then work their way across for the football at night.”
At least SEFNL’s netball grand finals are still being played on the same day, with Nepean and Peninsula playing their grand finals on preliminary final day of the football.
The night grand final initiative has the full support of the City of Casey and the Casey Demons who are the main tenant at the venue. Both organisations have been co-operative in bringing this to fruition.
In another first for the SEFNL competition, the football and netball preliminary finals will also be played at Casey Fields, during the day, on Saturday 9 September.
Hosting rights for the first two weeks of the finals will be tendered out to clubs in due course.