Mick Malthouse wants AFL in Ballarat

CARLTON coach Mick Malthouse has backed Ballarat’s bid to host AFL matches for premiership points.

Malthouse, who began his football career with Wendouree West, then North Ballarat, was impressed with Eureka Stadium’s potential on Saturday evening, after the Blues’ NAB Challenge match against North Melbourne.

“If they can get those standards met, like portable stands, then why not,” Malthouse said.

“It’s an hour 10 (minutes) from Melbourne and a wonderful city.

“They’ve got to get logistics ready. I’m not here to say what those logistics are.

“Let’s just say I’m very pro-Ballarat.

“I think, if anyone can put something like this on, this city can – particularly North Ballarat (Football Club).”

This is the first time Malthouse, a North Ballarat Roosters’ hall of famer, has weighed into the debate.

North Melbourne has been a long-time supporter of a boutique stadium in Ballarat, where it has ties with the Roosters and the City of Ballarat.

Kangaroos coach Brad Scott and the club’s new chief executive officer Carl Dilena reiterated this in  last week’s AFL community camp – the sixth consecutive summer the Roos have officially visited  Ballarat schools, football clubs and community groups.

Malthouse said he commended the AFL for using its pre-season competition to take the game to country centres across the nation, particularly to a “very, very good  ground” like Ballarat’s Eureka Stadium.

Regional support was shown in the crowds. Ballarat boasted 7800 fans at the game.

Then Malthouse candidly promoted Ballarat and the city’s passionate sporting culture.

“I’ve got to put in a plug for Ballarat,” Malthouse said.

“When you walk through the rooms you see posters of Matthew Capunao, Michael Jamison – his poster’s on a wall – Drew Petrie...it’s an illustration of how many players roll through Ballarat.

“I’m a North player. Once a Northie, always a Northie – and I don’t mean North Melbourne either."

“I’m just rapt to be back in Ballarat. It’s a great city, it’s a very sporting city.”

“It’s a wonderful ground here, great crowd and it was a good contest – when you have a good contest, people get involved in it. 

They can go home with something and say they understand why players go to Melbourne.” 

Fundamentally, it’s important to me to give something back to the people of this area that has been so good in supporting elite sport and elite football.”

City of Ballarat is lobbying for 6000 seats for the stadium in a proposed development for the Ballarat sports and entertainment precinct with a goal to build towards 15,000 seats.

North Ballarat Roosters coach Gerard FitzGerald says the NAB Challenge game showcased what Ballarat could achieve.

The match drew legions of North Melbourne and Carlton fans from Melbourne,  as expected , but importantly supporters from the wider western Victoria region.

FitzGerald said demand was evident.

The television broadcast, including vision from Carlton and North Melbourne rooms, promoted the high-quality venue.

Now, FitzGerald says, it is a matter of which political party will put its hand up and run with it.

melanie.whelan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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