WANGARATTA has re-ignited its push to reclaim the Ovens and Murray Football-Netball League grand final after successfully staging an AFL pre-season game on Saturday.
The upgraded Norm Minns Oval, which took in a sell-out crowd of 11,000 on Saturday night, compared favourably to the Brendan Fevola-inspired turnout of 12,086 for last year’s O and M decider.
Wangaratta last staged the O and M grand final nearly two decades ago.
Wangaratta councillor Don Joyce and chief executive Doug Sharp agreed the city could do little more to wrench the league’s big event from Lavington Oval.
Cr Joyce said the council used the AFL game as a trial run to host the O and M grand final.
“It is an Ovens and Murray competition,” he said.
“You’ve got two regions and why should one venue have it all the time?
“Have a look at the playing surface and we’ve extended the viewing sections around the ground.
“Even with 11,000 people here today we could still fit a few more in.
“Capacity is not an issue any more,” Cr Joyce said.
Mr Sharp said if the ground was capable of hosting an AFL game then it would be more than suitable for the O and M grand final.
“We put a lot of investment and effort into bringing this ground up to AFL standard,” he said.
“The AFL has seen fit to play a game of the quality of Essendon and Richmond here.
“We just feel we should be in the running for the showpiece of our region, the Ovens and Murray grand final.”
But in an interesting twist, the full board of the O and M, which will decide on the grand final host mid-year, were not on the VIP invite list at the game.
Albury-Wodonga-based directors David Sinclair, David Kefford, Darren Yates and Kim Odewahn were notable omissions.
On the invite list were the most recent additions to the O and M board, Jason McPhail and Ken Jasper, who have strong links to Wangaratta, and league chairman Graeme Patterson.
They joined the board after last year’s decision to keep the grand final at Lavington.