Legislative Council: Wednesday, April 10, 2024


AFL Gather Round

The Hon. J.E. HANSON (15:38): I want to reflect on a few things that happened in our state last week. Unless you live under a rock, there was a minor couple of people in town kicking around some balls. Last Thursday, I had the great pleasure of taking my team from the office on an outing to watch the mighty Adelaide Crows at the Adelaide Oval and, although they were not quite so mighty that evening, they put on quite a show for an almost sold-out crowd.

This year's Gather Round built on the success of last year's event, with bigger crowds and an expanded festival of footy, if you like, that provided an opportunity for tourists to enjoy all that our state has to offer—and boy, did it deliver. Preliminary figures indicate that almost 40 per cent of all ticket holders were from interstate and beyond, which was up from the 32 per cent from last year. That is over 40,000 interstate visitors who filled our hotel rooms, filled our restaurants, filled the Adelaide Railway Station, if you were trying to get to the game like I was, and injected millions into our state economy.

Although the final economic impact of Gather Round has not yet been finalised, early indications have shown that there was around a 15 per cent increase for restaurants and hotels in revenue this past weekend.

On Monday, our government announced the next big step for Gather Round, with our world-famous Barossa Valley wine region set to host its first Gather Round match in 2025. Our government is partnering with The Barossa Council to deliver a jointly funded $40 million full-scale redevelopment of the Lyndoch Recreation Park facilities, which I think will leave a lasting legacy for the iconic wine region.

It would be a misunderstanding, though, if we just looked at this in an economic context. We cannot just focus on Gather Round in terms of dollars because, in reality, it is a lot more than that. It is actually about resetting—or recasting, if you like—the way that the nation looks at our state. I can tell you that we are no longer the butt of jokes. A lot of my mates from interstate came over for Gather Round, and they had a great time at Gather Round. For some of them it was the first time they had ever actually been to our state, and do you know what they all said? They said, 'Wow, I'll be back.'

We are a source of envy around the country, and Gather Round puts that on display in a clear context. In that regard, I think it is also important to look at what it means to people who live here, local people. I will finish with some remarks by the Mayor of Mount Barker, David Leach, who I think summed it up pretty nicely. He said:

It's a big deal for this town to host an AFL match, and I'm reminded yesterday when I saw the Swans come into the centre of town. The young children are…what got me excited. They were there able to mingle with their heroes and have a kick around with them and get some autographs.

It means a lot to these small places and these communities. Gather Round is more than just about the economic impact. It is about changing how we see ourselves as a state and how others see our state. As the Premier said, we are a source of envy around the country, and Gather Round is the showcase for our state's potential. For anyone who missed out this year, do yourself a favour and get a golden ticket to next year's showcase. Do yourself an even bigger favour and buy a bottle of wine while you are out in the Barossa region. You will not regret it.