AFL hierarchy supports upgrade
THE prospect of rugby league convert Karmichael Hunt running around Ballina’s soon-to-be upgraded Fripp Oval, teaching local kids how to kick an AFL ball, is a very real prospect.
The AFL is fully supportive of the Ballina Bombers’ move to turn Fripp Oval into a regional headquarters for the code, according to AFL Queensland’s regional development manager, Brent Kelly.
Plans to upgrade the ground’s lighting and install coaching boxes will bring the ground into calculations to hold regional junior representative games and clinics involving players from new AFL club the Gold Coast Suns.
It’s hoped that the lighting will be ready for the start of the 2011 AFL season, so a trip south for Karmichael Hunt and rest of his Gold Coast team-mates may not be too far away, Mr Kelly said.
“Absolutely, he (Hunt) is part of the Gold Coast football club and when they travel, they travel with the whole list and he needs to be a part of that,” he said.
But rather than seeing it as an aggressive push by the AFL into rugby league heartland, Mr Kelly said it’s simply recognition of the growth of the sport in this area.
“It’s not an intentional push into the Northern Rivers, it’s just a matter of recognition that the demand for the code is already there,” he said.
The ground upgrade will also be of great benefit to the Ballina Bombers’ junior and senior teams and allow the Northern Rivers under-16 teams to host twilight games involving teams from the Gold Coast competition.