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Gold Coast’s part in AFL’s China experiment could be over

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AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has declared he will open discussions over next year’s Shanghai match to Victorian teams, leaving the Suns’ future in the game on a knife’s edge.

The Suns have always been told continued involvement in the game is theirs if they want it due to Tourism Australia’s massive investment in the project and the Gold Coast’s standing as a premier destination for Chinese students.

However, Victorian trade minister Philip Dalidakis has been in Shanghai this week lobbying hard for a Melbourne team to take over next year.

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It is rumoured St Kilda is the preferred candidate.

McLachlan admitted the AFL were open to a change in teams and confirmed the minister had made an aggressive bid for a Melbourne club.

“Frankly, yes he did,” McLachlan said.

“They are very keen on getting a Victorian club playing up here.

“So we will assess and see where the Suns and Port are and talk to the Victorian Government and Victorian teams about the level of interest.

“But this is hard work up here and I’m proud of the team, proud of Port Adelaide and the Suns and the day feels much more consolidated than last year.”

McLachlan said he had not spoken to any Victorian clubs but had been told by Dalidakis the interest was high from several clubs.

“I haven’t had those discussions, we’ve been focusing on getting the Suns v Port game away and making it work,” he said.

“It has been a success, we will speak to both clubs and see what that means after that.”

The Suns have yet to commit to next year and after going down by 40 points to Port Adelaide on Saturday, giving them combined losses of 112 points from two games in Shanghai. They have said the football department would be heavily consulted before any return bid was made.

McLachlan said he would stay out of those discussions.

“That is a decision for Tony Cochrane, Mark Evans and their board,” he said.

“But they need to work out what this market means to them, it’s a home game they take here.

“Part of it will be where they see the evolution of their on-field piece and their budget stuff.

“I don’t know, it’s a decision for them, they have had a couple of years up here and they may say now they want to focus on consolidating at home and someone else can have a go or they may say they’re getting traction and want to stay.”

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