St Kilda will next year look at seeking to double their annual one-game AFL deal in Wellington.
Matt Finnis has been St Kilda’s chief executive for less than two weeks but he reckons he has a solid grasp of what the Saints need.
They must give total effort to their New Zealand project to make it work, and commit to a rebuilding phase on and off the field.
“What I’ve also learnt over nine years at AFL Players’ Association is some of the things that really establish the truly great clubs (who) seem to be able to buck the intention of the draft and salary cap and have this sustained success,” the former AFLPA chief told reporters on Wednesday.
“That real clarity of vision that they have and the continuity of that … to relentlessly achieve that goal is something that I’ve really admired at clubs like Hawthorn and Geelong and Sydney.”
While the Saints have climbed to ninth after five rounds, premiership success for this year at least looks unlikely.
Keeping pace with the big boys in football-department spending means making sure the club’s finances are ticking over. Finnis says he’s proud of St Kilda’s vision to become the first team to host games overseas for premiership points.
Last year St Kilda lost to Sydney in Wellington on Anzac Day, and on Friday the Saints will host Brisbane at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium.
The Saints’ five-year deal in Wellington expires after the 2018 season.
St Kilda’s commercial projects general manager Ben Davies says the deal will be reviewed after next year’s game, which falls on the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli.
“We’ll get to a discussion about whether a second game works in that market,” Davies told afl.com.au.
Finnis says the key to commercial success in New Zealand is to keep fronting up. Put in the effort.
“When you look around the world where sports want to expand, you need to do that with a consistent face to the game,” Finnis says.
“In this case it’s St Kilda. So that regularity of coming back to Wellington year on year, with the support and growth with the work AFL New Zealand is doing in the schools, the dream is that AFL becomes a regular feature on the sporting calendar in New Zealand.
“We’ve got a pretty bold target by 2018. We’d like to think we could have up to 10,000 New Zealand-based members of the club.
“That gives you a sense of the fact that we’re serious about it.”
Promoting the Saints’ brand in their Melbourne heartland includes attempting to have training and administrative bases in Seaford, while maintaining a profile at their former home grounds at Moorabbin and Junction Oval.
“Maybe I’m greedy but I’d like to think we could have a presence in all those places,” Finnis said.