NAB Challenge: Biggest day for football in Ballarat with AFL at Eureka

THE year is 2020 and in his 100th AFL game Majak Daw is bounding down the wing of a redeveloped Eureka Stadium in Ballarat. 

He takes one bounce, two, three, as he runs toward fifty. He lines up the goals at the Creswick Road end and boots it high through the posts as the siren blares. 

A sell-out crowd of 15,000 goes wild. North Melbourne wins and is through to the finals.

This scenario is not just a dream but could one day be a reality if Ballarat succeeds in its lobbying effort to prepare Eureka Stadium for regular season AFL games.

As North Melbourne prepares to play Carlton today in a pre-season NAB Challenge game, the fight is still on to make that dream come true. 

He does not expect it to happen during his playing career, but Kangaroos forward Drew Petrie believes Ballarat and surrounding regional centres would strongly support local home and away games.

But he sees a facility upgrade at the venue as the main stumbling block in making the dream a reality.

“We are seeing a lot of AFL games taken to other parts of not only regional Victoria, but regional Australia,” Petrie said.

“It would be a great winner to bring a home and away game down to Ballarat.”

In 2010, Ballarat seemed closer than ever to making it happen when the Labor Party promised $30 million to redevelop the stadium. 

Four years later and with another state election coming up, Ballarat City Council has set its sights lower to a 6000-seat upgrade as it hopes to achieve some kind of funding for the stadium.

Ballarat City Councillor Des Hudson, who spoke about the stadium issue at a NAB Challenge preview breakfast yesterday, said council was still striving to bring regular-season games to the city.

He said the council hadn’t downgraded its vision for the stadium but was instead breaking it up in to smaller “bite-sized” stages, which might prove more attractive for government funding. 

“It would be fantastic to see actual games for premiership points in Ballarat. We would like to be in a position to make that happen,” he said. 

Ballarat might be in the right place and right time to start making the dream come true.

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

NORTH Melbourne and Carlton will clash at Eureka Stadium today in their first pre-season game. 

Part of the NAB Challenge, Ballarat and regional grounds around Australia will play host to 18 AFL games in 18 days. 

Admission prices range from $18 for adults and $4 for juniors aged 6-14. 

Tickets are available for purchase online at Ticketmaster or at the venue from 2.30pm. 

Parking is available in the streets surrounding the vicinity and also at the showgrounds for a cost of $5. 

Gates to the ground open at 3pm, and more than 5000 fans are expected to attend. 

However, Eureka Stadium reminds patrons that seating in the grandstand is limited.

The ball will bounce at 4.40pm, and at 7.30pm fans can stay and watch the VFL practice match between the Northern Blues and the Roosters. 

North Melbourne was beaten by the Carlton last time they played in round 17 last year. The Roos are hoping for a win, with partner city Ballarat behind them.

Fox Sports will be covering the game live on television, while radio listeners can tune into SEN. 

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