AFL keen to make up for lost ground

ANDREW Demetriou says the AFL is determined to make up for last year’s NAB Cup farce at Wangaratta.

Demetriou, who inspected Norm Minns Oval yesterday ahead of next month’s Essendon-Richmond clash, said the AFL was out to atone for last year, when a match between the Bombers and St Kilda was abandoned after the Essendon plane could not land because of foul weather.

It cost Wangaratta council and its football clubs $173,000 and the AFL plenty of criticism.

But criticism that was warranted, according to the chief executive.

“Absolutely. We never underestimate the importance of grassroots,” Demetriou said.

“Our competition is wonderfully served by players from all around the country, particularly from regional areas.

“It was unfortunate we couldn’t have the game last year but we’re looking forward to this one.”

Demetriou said he had faith in Essendon restoring its image in the North East.

Several local Bomber fans said they no longer supported the club after last year’s drama.

“Essendon’s a great community club,” Demetriou said.

“It has demonstrated that over a long period.

“They came up last year after the game with six of their players and I know they’re looking forward to coming up again.

“They’ll put their best foot forward and they’re looking forward to making amends.”

Demetriou was impressed with the Showground’s facilities.

“It’s first class,” he said.

“Everyone associated with the development should be congratulated.

“The ground is beautiful, the facilities are beautiful and it should be a great game.

“We’ll get a sell-out which is great for Wangaratta.

“Fingers crossed, we get good weather.”

The James Hird-coached Bombers will also hold their two-day community camp in the North East before the game.

Its players will visit Beechworth, Myrtleford and Bright.

The club will also hold a function at the Gateway motel on Thursday, February 28.

Both teams will travel by bus from Melbourne.

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