BALLARAT is now preparing for a Buddy big game on Mars this Saturday.
The AFL's highly anticipated Battle of the Bridge for its Sydney franchises has been locked in for Ballarat with New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory in lockdown and borders firmly shut.
This makes for the second extra AFL game in Ballarat within a fortnight - and an already scheduled Western Bulldogs' clash to follow next week - with the added drawcard of Sydney Swans' headline act Lance 'Buddy' Franklin in red-and-white hot form.
Greater Western Sydney has been quick to capitalise on the feeling Ballarat had "opened its arms" to the club on Sunday, according to Giants' chief David Matthews. With both Melbourne stadiums booked on Saturday, Ballarat and Geelong houses were most likely to host what is the Giants' home game.
But there is already a strong Swan presence in town.
Ballarat Swans boast one of the nation's oldest Australian Rules football clubs and the biggest junior contingent in the region. Not to mention Swans' big recruit for the season is Josh Gibson, Franklin's former teammate at Hawthorn.
Swans' president Karl Drever said even though Western Bulldogs were Ballarat's adopted AFL club, there was plenty of Swans' merchandise in town, albeit of a Ballarat breed.
"It's exciting. There's no doubt about it," Mr Drever said. "It's absolutely fantastic now that Ballarat has got the facilities to host AFL games."
The Swans' senior players have the bye in the Ballarat Football League and the juniors are scheduled to play on Saturday morning.
Swans junior boys football director Scott Petrie hoped the lure of Buddy action, wearing the same Swans' colours and logo in Ballarat, would draw a strong contingent from the club.
"Buddy's an icon of the competition and he's in form...Hopefully he comes to Ballarat," Mr Petrie said. "Even seeing a player like (Giant) Toby Greene, to have elite players at arms-length away, is great for the region."
The Giants had been working to take the game to their secondary home-base in Canberra but this was squashed with tightened state border restrictions on Sunday.
Giants chief David Matthews thanked the AFL on a quick decision and the Ballarat community for facilitating a return to Mars Stadium after the club's one-point loss to Gold Coast Suns.
"The Sydney derby is always an entertaining contest between two fierce rivals, with this week's game being no exception, and so I encourage everyone who can attend to get along and watch another great spectacle," Mr Matthews said.
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