Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

All you want to know about the AFL - in Nagambie

Football high-flyer Travis Auld gave a fascinating insight into AFL at one of his old haunts on Saturday night.

CHALPAT SONTI August 28, 2014 3:56am

Soon to be AFL second-in-command Travis Auld discusses the state of the game at the Nagambie vote count on Saturday night, watched on by brother and Lakers president Rob.

Can Gary Ablett still win the Brownlow Medal? Just what does it cost to run an AFL club? How can the ‘‘poorer’’ clubs ever hope to level the playing field? Does the AFL’s soon-to-be number two executive have his eye on the top job? And what are the biggest issues facing the game today?

Those and many other questions were answered by Travis Auld at a favourite old stomping ground on Saturday night.

Auld, who among his past credits can list a KDFL senior premiership in 1999 with Nagambie, gave a fascinating insight into the highest levels of the game.

The now Gold Coast Suns chief executive was recently appointed AFL clubs and operations manager and, as he said, one of his key tasks is to work out how to get fans back to games.

Some of his answers — in response to questions posed by his brother, Lakers president Rob, and some from the audience — would have found a receptive audience.

That included trying to bring the flavour of the hugely-successful shift in South Australia to Adelaide Oval to the likes of Etihad Stadium.

‘‘Adelaide Oval is the most amazing experience,’’ Travis Auld said.

‘‘At (Gold Coast’s home) Metricon we do things differently, but you go to Etihad and it’s just about the footy, nothing else.’’

And something that should please regional fans is also on Auld’s to-do list — trying to get the 7.40pm starts back to 7.10pm on Saturdays.

‘‘In some ways the AFL has moved a long way from fans. It’s all about broadcasting ... I think the biggest issue we’ve got is making it accessible for fans to go to games, we’ve got to find a way.’’

With his rivals falling away, Ablett was still a chance to win ‘‘Charlie’’, Auld reckoned.

‘‘He’s the ultimate professional ... the biggest thing (about signing him) wasn’t the money, it was about how we were going to succeed.’’

Auld did give listeners an insight into money though. He said it cost about $9million a year to put a side on the park, and $10million in player wages, while total costs were about $30million a year to operate, with 70 full-time and 250 part-time staff.

‘‘Clubs are a big business and one of the challenges facing the AFL is clubs like the Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne are spending $17million on players and Collingwood’s spending $22million.

‘‘There’s a $5million difference and that’s not a sustainable exercise (for the ‘poorer’ clubs to remain competitive). At some point that’s going to impact.’’

Auld recalled how he first got involved in the AFL. As a chartered accountant who went to university in Bendigo, one of his clients was Essendon, which got involved in salary cap cheating.

‘‘I got a call from the CEO who said ‘the whole place is a mess, can you come in and clean up our finance department’,’’ Auld said.

Auld worked his way up the ranks at Essendon and said he applied for the Suns’ job as a trial run for when the Bombers’ top spot became vacant. It got down to him and (now Hawthorn chief Stuart Fox) and he got the nod after impressing then AFL boss Andrew Demetriou with his thoughts on how he would have handled the infamous North Melbourne ‘‘chickengate’’ scandal.

‘‘He (Fox) came second and got the first prize,’’ Auld joked, in reference to the Hawks’ premiership success last year.

Auld was recruited for his new job-to-be by new AFL head Gillon McLachlan.

‘‘When he said he was coming up to the Gold Coast I thought I must have done something wrong,’’Auld said.

But does he have his eye on McLachlan’s role one day?

‘‘I don’t know the answer to (that),’’ he said.

‘‘Being the CEO is a very public role and I’m not sure that’s something I want to do.’’

Nagambie vote count, Page 15; Rattray kicks ton, Page 24.

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