WE WANT TO COME BACK: RENE­GADES

Geelong Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - ALEX OATES

THE Mel­bourne Rene­gades have de­clared they will per­sist with the Big Bash League ex­per­i­ment in Gee­long, de­spite be­low-par crowds in two matches at GMHBA Sta­dium.

Rene­gades chief ex­ec­u­tive Stuart Coven­try said the fran­chise was ea­ger to bring more games next year and be­yond, but he stopped short of declar­ing any fu­ture ven­ture a for­mal­ity.

“We haven’t sat down and for­mally talked about it, but we think this is a really good growth mar­ket,” Coven­try said in the wake of the Rene­gades’ 101run thrash­ing to Bris­bane Heat.

“We’ve only played three games here, so we’re still early in our ex­is­tence, but over­all we’re happy with the re­sult and we’ll se­ri­ously be look­ing at play­ing here again next year.”

When pressed about the like­li­hood of a re­turn for BBL09, Coven­try said it was too early to make a com­mit­ment.

“We have to sit down and go through it,” Coven­try said. “We’re only half­way through our sea­son right now, and there’s a lot of ac­tiv­ity to hap­pen now and the mid­dle of Fe­bru­ary, so we’ll sit down with the (Kar­dinia Park Sta­dium) Trust and go through it.

“Just the gen­eral feed­back from (City of Greater Gee­long) coun­cil­lors and gov­ern­ment is this is a really good suc­cess story and Big Bash as a prod­uct fits in well at this venue. We feel like it’s a good plan for us in the fu­ture. It’s def­i­nitely worth per­sist­ing with, cer­tainly.”

Cricket Aus­tralia is also open to bring­ing more matches to GMHBA Sta­dium in the fu­ture, with BBL boss Kim McCon­nie declar­ing the ven­ture a suc­cess.

“Tak­ing games back to Gee­long this sea­son has been a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence and rep­re­sented the League pos­i­tively,” McCon­nie said.

“We’re very happy with the re­sults and have re­ceived great feed­back from fans in Gee­long. Part of our strat­egy is to help cricket be a sport for all Aus­tralians and part of this is grow­ing our foot­print across the coun­try. “

“We hope Gee­long can con­tinue to be part of this strat­egy and will as­sess post-sea­son when we start look­ing ahead to BBL09.”

Crowds were well down on ex­pec­ta­tions this sum­mer, with 18,029 mov­ing through the turn­stiles for the Rene­gades’ clash against the Ade­laide Strik­ers on Jan­uary 3, al­most 7000 short of the pre­match tar­get.

Coven­try de­clared 20,000 a “pass mark” for game two against Bris­bane Heat on Sun­day, but only 16,008 at­tended.

“It’s still a good ef­fort,” Coven­try in­sisted.

“It’s a Sun­day night and a lot of peo­ple are head­ing back from hol­i­days. I think when you look at the two games — 18,000 and 16,000 — we’ve had 34,000 and we’d take that.

“We were prob­a­bly a lit­tle bit ag­gres­sive in our fore­cast­ing of 20,000 be­cause of the beau­ti­ful weather, but it’s still really good and we’re happy with it.”

The Rene­gades’ poor form against the Strik­ers, and the ab­sence of home­town hero Aaron Finch, were strong con­tribut­ing fac­tors in the re­duced crowds.

Coven­try ac­knowl­edged that the ex­pan­sion of the BBL, in­creas­ing each team’s matches to 14, and low at­ten­dances com­pe­ti­tion-wide also in­flu­enced num­bers.

“Ev­ery­one ex­pected some equi­lib­rium be­cause of the ex­tra games, but we’re still happy with the num­bers we’ve got,” Coven­try said.

“We’re dis­ap­pointed with the re­sult (of the game), but that’s T20 cricket and we go to Syd­ney (to­mor­row).”

Rene­gades im­port Harry Gur­ney

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