Eastlake concerned about long-term home at Manuka Oval

Eastlake is concerned about the NEAFL club's long-term future at a redeveloped Manuka Oval, with fears it could become too expensive to continue playing on the ground it has called home for almost a century.

Manuka has undergone extensive upgrades over the past two years, starting with the installation of lights and then a $9-million renovation of the playing surface and drainage.

Work on the grandstands is next on the agenda, with plans to increase capacity to 19,000.

Demons coach Anthony Bourke was concerned all the work might make Manuka too big for Eastlake and leavingĀ it as the only Canberra club without an established home - Ainslie has Alan Ray Oval, Belconnen has Kippax Oval and Queanbeyan also has its own ground.

With AFL games, first-class and international cricket now regularly played at Manuka, Bourke was worried community based clubs such as Eastlake might be forced out of the venue.

There are also concerns about the need to hire security staff at a bigger venue, as well as catering contracts preventing the Demons from making money through operating the canteen.


It would leave Eastlake looking for a new home, with Phillip's Football Park one possibility.

With Manuka currently unavailable due to work on the playing surface, the Demons will play Southport at Footy Park on Saturday.

They play their first game at Manuka next weekend, against Queanbeyan.

"There is some issues there, we just want to make sure that if there's an opportunity for us to be part of it going forward that we want to," Bourke said.

"If not, we need to start looking at something else.

"We've probably got the worst facilities, as far as home-ground training venue, of the remaining four NEAFL teams in Canberra.

"They all get to train and play on their home ground and we don't.

"If it's not a viable option for us, we need to reassess where we're at."

Eastlake football manager Stephen Soulsby said, given the club's historical connection to Manuka, the preference was to remain at Manuka, but the club would also need to be financially prudent when making a decision.

He felt the status of playing in the NEAFL was sufficiently high enough to warrant playing at a first-class venue such as Manuka.

Soulsby also wanted to utilise the lights for night games and said he would be pushing the NEAFL to introduce that into its schedule next season.

"Obviously there's the potential to play night games at Manuka as well with the lights being installed in the last two or three years," Soulsby said.

"It's about being smart about who you play there, when you play there ... obviously you want to play against a local rival and try to draw a crowd."

The ACT government did not return Fairfax Media's calls.

While many predicted Eastlake to struggle this season, it produced an upset nine-point victory over Sydney Uni last week, which earned midfielder Harrison Bryant a nomination for the Rising Star award.

He won the Demons' first division best and fairest last year.


Eastlake v Southport at Football Park, Phillip, 11.30am

Sydney Uni v Ainslie at Blacktown, 12pm

Sydney Hills Eagles v Belconnen at Bruce Purser Reserve, Sydney, 12pm

Queanbeyan v Aspley at Queanbeyan, 12pm