The blueprint used by the Gold Coast Suns has ensured the success and that of fellow newcomers Greater Western Sydney, AFL boss Andrew Demetriou says.
Still glowing after the 17th club was officially unveiled as the Gold Coast Suns, Demetriou said they had “raised the bar” for Team GWS.
“They have. The Greater Western Sydney bid group have worked very closely with the Gold Coast club to learn from them,” he said.
“It’s terrific that we have that collaboration off the field – there is a lot to learn about the way the Gold Coast club has gone about this.
“We have learned from our errors of our past when we set up new teams.
“And certainly the Greater Western Sydney team will be far better because of the experience that the Gold Coast team has been through.
“They are here for the long haul and it is going to be a really exciting journey.”
Demetriou was pinching himself over the Suns’ success to date, saying it only seemed like yesterday that the 17th club was a “crazy concept” pitched three years ago in talks with Gold Coast Mayor Ron Clarke.
Now the Gold Coast Suns have emerged as a yardstick. Demetriou said the Suns – who make their AFL debut in 2011 – had exceeded every criteria but it was their “community first” approach that would ensure success.
“This is Australia’s new football frontier, or at least one of them,” he said of the Gold Coast.
“As important as it is to grow the game, it is just as important that we have strong values and a legacy.
“New clubs must connect with communities.
“And I have got to say the Gold Coast have done that from day one.
“The community really owns this name and what this club stands for – that is probably the best part of it.”
The Suns will receive nine of the first 15 picks in the next AFL draft – part of a raft of concessions Demetriou believes will fast-track on-field results.
“All of our clubs know that this club needs to be competitive, because both here and in Team Greater Western Sydney we don’t want to see teams losing every week,” he said.
“But I do believe they are going to be a very successful club very quickly.
“We have got no doubt that the Gold Coast will be a big part of the AFL family.”
And Demetriou wasn’t just excited about the Gold Coast Suns’ on-field impact.
“Over 12 per cent (of AFL) teams and content are in Queensland and NSW yet the two states represent 54 per cent of Australia’s population and 58 per cent of Australia’s media market, so we can see so much potential in the Gold Coast club,” he said.
Gold Coast CEO Travis Auld said the sky was the limit after 7000 members signed on before their official launch on Thursday night.
“Without a name, a jumper or a song, that (number) amazes me – for an AFL club that didn’t exist, that is not a bad effort,” Auld said.
“Now we have a platform to build more support for this footy club.
“But everything we do now is about 2011 – this is the start of the hard work.”
Demetriou could not confirm whether they planned to line up the Suns against the Brisbane Lions in the 2011 season opener.
And he was not concerned by the progress of the redevelopment of the Suns’ Carrara home ground, which is not expected to be ready until round 11 next year.