AFLW hub underway at Ikon Park

The development of elite facilities and tailored AFLW change rooms at Ikon Park will seek to boost resources for women footballers to the same level as the men’s league.

With work now underway on the club’s currently below par facilities, Carlton president Mark LoGiudice, players Maddy Prespakis and Taylor Harris, the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula and Federal Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy Jane Hume gathered last month to observe the new developments taking place as the club try to reinforce a culture surrounding gender equality.

Minister Pakula labelled it a “win for the current crop of elite players”, but also for future AFLW players “who will be inspired to follow in their footsteps.”

“Elite footballers like Maddy Prespakis and Tayla Harris deserve a level playing field – that’s why we’re backing this landmark project and others like it across Melbourne,” Minister Pakula said.

The changes are set to include the demolition of the Pratt Stand to be replaced with purpose-built AFLW change rooms and an elite indoor training facility, additional to refurbishments to the current training and administration building to provide equal access to club resources for both the AFL and AFLW teams, while lighting is due to be upgraded to allow the broadcasting of AFLW night matches.

“These new ground improvements will be a big win for the Blues and the entire AFLW community, giving us the facilities that players and fans deserve,” Mr LoGiudice said.

After shouldering $20 million of the $42 million project, the state government has reaffirmed its stance supporting women’s football, matching a plethora of other provisions dedicated to upgrading facilities such as those at Moorabbin Oval, Whitten Oval, Casey Park and Victoria Park.

The federal government will also provide $15 million to the total, with Carlton and the AFL combining to account for the outstanding $5 million.

This is the first move of many expected by the government after the state budget cited redevelopments for AFLW facilities at Essendon, Richmond, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs all expected to take place later this year.

Since its inception in 2017, support for AFLW has steadily increased despite an abrupt end to the 2020 season due to the pandemic.

After hosting a sell-out crowd for the first ever AFLW match, Ikon Park will be hoping to replicate similar audience reception to a reduced crowd in lieu of the pandemic at the 2021 season opener on January 28.

The City of Melbourne endorsed plans for the transformation of Ikon Park back in August last year. Chair of Planning Cr Nicholas Reece said at the time that any development of the ground would need to be consistent with the Melbourne Planning Scheme and respectful of the landscape and heritage character of Princes Park.

“So many Melburnians have nostalgic memories of going to games at Princes Park. Everyone agrees there’s a different experience watching games in the suburbs compared to Docklands or the MCG,” Cr Reece said.  

“It’s exciting that these facilities could be upgraded to elite sporting standards. The proposal includes upgrading the oval along with delivering a new coaching hub, sports injury prevention centre and an allied health facility.” •

Kills off the talent too early

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