Saints marching back to St Kilda?

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By: Zoe Tovey

 

St Kilda Football Club officials say that speculation the Saints will return to their old stomping ground at Junction Oval after almost 50 years is premature, and for the time being the club remains committed to its current training base at Seaford.

The Age reported last month that the AFL was in in top-level talks with the State Government to explore the possibility of a co-tenancy arrangement at the oval between St Kilda Football Club and Cricket Victoria. Junction Oval was the Saints’ home ground until 1965, when the club moved to Moorabbin. It moved again to Seaford in 2010, but its tenure there has been troubled, with reports the club was already outgrowing the facilities there.

St Kilda released a statement confirming the talks about a potential Junction Oval deal, but said the club had not been directly involved.

“The AFL, State Government, MCC and Cricket Victoria have been involved in discussions concerning access to the MCG for football for some time.

“Whilst not party to those discussions, the St Kilda Football Club has recently been consulted by the AFL in relation to the prospect of incorporating a Saints presence into the potential redevelopment as part of their broader objectives linking elite and community football facilities in Victoria.”

In its statement, the club was keen to stress the strength of its relationships with the cities of Frankston and Kingston, saying any talk of the Saints returning to St Kilda was “highly speculative”.

“When you consider our whole of bayside strategy, existing quality facilities at Linen House Centre, strong relationships with Frankston and Kingston City Councils and commitments that are in place, it is highly speculative to imply any situation beyond that which has been articulated above. These developments are new from a St Kilda Football Club point of view, and it is therefore inappropriate to comment further until more details emerge.”

However, St Kilda supporter Craig Reardon, who is campaigning for the move to Junction Oval, said the statement appeared to have been crafted to “appease current sponsors and partners who weren’t informed of the development”.

Reardon said the current circumstances offered the Saints a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to have a world-class stadium right in their birthplace”.

“The opportunity exists because Cricket Victoria needs a partner to realise its Cricket Academy at the Junction. AFL want Cricket Vic there because the MCG is currently booked out in March for the possibility of the Bushrangers being in the finals. But it’s difficult for AFL to justify an investment to facilitate this without a direct football imperative,” he said.

“I am a local resident and business operator and a Saints fan, so I naturally want to see the club in the area.  But I also have real concerns for the future of the club as they move further and further from the great city that spawned it.”

Reardon doubted St Kilda could afford to invest in further development at Seaford.

“What’s more, as is evidenced by the near-unanimous supporter enthusiasm for the idea, fans are becoming increasingly disenfranchised by the notion of clubs that have little connection with their original homes – the very thing that made the AFL/VFL what it was,” he said.

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