AFL heading back to the Territory in 2022

The Territory will host three AFL games next year, including the prestigious Sir Doug Nicholls Round, which recognises the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players in the sport.

The Gold Coast SUNS will host Hawthorn at TIO Stadium in Darwin in Round 11 as part of the annual Sir Doug Nicholls Round before returning to the venue in Round 12 of the 2022 Toyota AFL Premiership Season, with the opponent to be announced in coming days. The Melbourne Demons will play a game at TIO Traeger Park in Alice Springs later in the season, with the opponent and round to be announced in coming days.

Gold Coast SUNS CEO Mark Evans said the team is looking forward to heading back to the Top End.

“We’re ecstatic that, as a football club, we’ll be able to get back to the Northern Territory in 2022 and play not one but two fixtures at TIO Stadium after Territorians missed out last year,” he said. “The playing squad will remain in Darwin in between each fixture in an effort to create a real festival of AFL football within the community over the two weekends. Playing against Hawthorn as part of the Sir Doug Nicholls Round and then playing again in Round 12 the following weekend will provide a great opportunity for fans to travel to the region and experience everything Darwin has to offer.”

Melbourne Demons CEO Gary Pert said his team had developed a strong connection to the Red Centre.

“The Northern Territory is an incredibly special place and we are really looking forward to getting back there to play football again in 2022,” he said. “Our players, coaches and staff have built a close relationship with the NT over the past decade, and continue to focus on giving back to the community, and ensuring our partnership is meaningful and impactful. TIO Traeger Park has become like a second home for us, and it’s always fantastic to be able to connect with the local community and bring the AFL to their doorstep.”

The games are part of the Northern Territory Government’s partnership with the AFL through Northern Territory Major Events. It sees the Gold Coast SUNS play a game in the Top End each season, and the Melbourne Demons head to the Red Centre for a match. A third game will take place in the Territory in 2022 due to COVID restrictions affecting the roll-out of games in 2021.