TALK to any sporting body and it’s all about brand.
How to get their brand out there in the forefront of people’s minds as the best sport to play, the most entertaining sport to watch and the sport with the most potential for growth.
With Orange City Council getting the go ahead to find land for a purpose built rectangular precinct in the city, the AFL sees Orange and Wade Park as an area it can grow - significantly.
“The AFL is committed to explore all opportunities that surround Wade Park and will continue to invest in game development activities to build the profile of our sport and the GWS Giants,” NSW/ACT manager for Greater Western Sydney region Dean Connors said.
“There is no doubt a facility of this calibre can be utilised for community football and potentially showcasing Giants NEAFL (North Eastern AFL) matches in the future.”
Those words should be music to the ears of all and sundry.
Especially with change imminent.
Rugby league and cricket have long shared Wade Park, with the winter code first using the ground in 1925.
The land where Wade Park currently sits was first home to cricket in 1862.
The ground has been the grand old lady of Orange sport for 150 years.
But should league move on to this proposed purpose built precinct, what does the future hold for Wade Park?
Especially in winter?
Given the size and shape of the ground, AFL is the obvious answer.
They they think so too.
For the last month Connors has been in talks with council about bringing a NEAFL - a competition one rung below the AFL, basically the equivalent to the Victorian Football League (VFL) - pre-season game to Orange in 2014.
NSW/ACT AFL power brokers have been to the city and they like what they see at Wade Park.
Presently, Central West AFL outfit the Orange Tigers is based out of Country Club Oval and being a boutique ground simply wouldn’t be capable of playing host to any form of high level football matches.
Tigers committee member Paul Willoughby said Wade Park, however, would be the ideal home of AFL in Orange.
“The Tigers would love to host home games at Wade Park,” he said.
“And certainly with the possibility of NEAFL Cup matches being brought to Orange we’d be very much in favour of it.”
At present, the Giants take a yearly NEAFL match to Wagga Wagga as part of a $300,000 partnership with Wagga City Council.
The benefits of the agreement also include a pre-season NAB Cup at Robertson Oval as well as a GWS team community camp.
A similar deal in Orange would put the sport and the GWS Giants on the map in the Central West and provide a much needed injection to a competition that dropped from six teams in 2012 to just four in 2013.
There’s potential in Orange and at Wade Park.
The AFL knows it.