The first pre-season AFL match in Whyalla in more than 20 years has been hailed a resounding success by organisers, sponsors and the community alike.
Nearly 5000 people witnessed a great spectacle at the recently redeveloped Bennett Oval in what were perfect conditions.
City of Whyalla Acting CEO Kristen Clark said he was thrilled to see so many people at the game on Saturday.
“Council was very happy with how smoothly the event went and I am extremely proud of the team that put this big event together,” Mr Clark said.
“We had close to 5000 people through the gates, with initial measurements suggesting hundreds of thousands of dollars extra was spent over the long-weekend – including accommodation almost being at capacity – which is a significant contribution to the local economy.“
Mayor Clare McLaughlin was impressed with the crowd and positive message coming from the wider community.
“This was a great event for the community,” Ms McLaughlin said.
“We have received great comments on how good Bennett Oval looked and the quality of the surface; and I was really proud of how well-behaved and positive the crowd was.
“We look forward to presenting more events like this in the future – especially now that we have shown we can achieve such a high standard – we are positive we can attract other sporting bodies to Whyalla.
“Minister for Recreation and Sport Corey Wingard was in town to witness the event, and said he wants Bennett Oval to be the benchmark for all of our future redevelopments going forward, so it’s encouraging to have that acknowledgement and support from the State Government.”
Sanjeev Gupta – who personally sponsored Port Adelaide on the condition they would bring AFL back to Whyalla – said it was fantastic to see the vision become a reality.
“Although I couldn’t be there due to the sudden passing of a close friend and colleague, I was able to catch the coverage and was blown away by what I saw,” Mr Gupta said.
“The ground and the crowd looked amazing, and it was great to see Port snatch a thrilling, last-minute win!
“Once again, I’d like to sincerely thank Whyalla City Council, South Australian Government, SACA, SANFL, AFL and Port Power for their dedication and hard work in bringing this to fruition.
“I hope it will have a lasting impact on the community and Whyalla’s redevelopment.”
Port Adelaide Football Club coach Ken Hinkley said he would love to come back again in the future after seeing the great support of the wider community.
“We love coming to Whyalla,” he said.
“We were out in the community visiting schools and meeting the supporters, the ground was in great shape and credit to the Whyalla people and everyone involved, and we hope to come back many times.
“The locals have been fantastic over the whole week, they have been really supportive of us. Coming from the country myself, I can understand the importance of bringing AFL teams out to places like Whyalla – a lot of the players grew up and played in country towns so they equally enjoy getting out here.”
Western Bulldogs Coach Luke Beveridge was also impressed with the support from Whyalla and the condition of Bennett Oval.
“We were looking forward to coming to Whyalla – we have enjoyed it very much, the ground was in really good condition,” he said.
“Looks like we had a pretty good crowd too – a lot of red white and blue out there – we had quite a few people come up and express their devotion to the club. It was a great experience to chat and shake hands with supporters who don’t usually get to see us play up close.”