Saturday Serve

Beam me up Sheedy

Beam me up Sheedy

Hands up those who know where Startrack Oval Canberra is?

It's been there all along, nestled in among the inner south latte-sipping set but still only a Leigh Matthews torpedo from the city centre.

From March to September, the ground formerly known as Manuka Oval will be given a cash-grab inspired makeover in the latest twist to the AFL's decade-long deal with the ACT government.

The Manuka Oval will now bear a sponsor's name during AFL matches. GWS Giants co-captain, Phil Davis was on hand when it was named "Star Track Oval Canberra".

The Manuka Oval will now bear a sponsor's name during AFL matches. GWS Giants co-captain, Phil Davis was on hand when it was named "Star Track Oval Canberra". Photo: Graham Tidy

Let's confirm a fact - the ACT government owns Manuka Oval.

Yet the ACT government will receive only a ''small portion'' of the unknown revenue generated from the two-year naming-rights deal with Startrack.

The rest goes back to the coffers of the GWS Giants.

It's a sweet deal for the Giants, especially when you factor in they are already swimming in up to $2.6 million of ACT taxpayer funds per year until the end of 2021.

The ACT government's stance is that it is better getting something than nothing, and that without the Giants the naming rights would be worthless.

For more than two years, the ACT government has tried without success to find a suitor for Canberra Stadium, the spacious, often derided home of the Raiders and the Brumbies.

Along with eight Super Rugby games and 12 NRL fixtures, albeit the majority broadcast on pay television, this year there is also a Kangaroos v New Zealand rugby league Test and a British Lions match with the Brumbies.

Still, no luck.

Either the corporate pie in Canberra has been devoured or the government's asking price is too high.

I'll let you answer that one, but back to Manuka (or should I say Startrack Oval Canberra).

When the AFL signed off on the contract for the Giants to form a partnership with the ACT government in late 2010, a clause was included for naming rights at Manuka Oval during the AFL premiership season and pre-season matches to belong to the AFL.

It is the ninth point listed under section 13.2 covering revenue rights, and is buried under such aspects as signage, ticket sales and catering sales.

The AFL has proven itself to be the best operator in the business.

A billion-dollar broadcast rights deal, a dedicated channel on pay-TV and teams in every state of mainland Australia has it as the benchmark that all other codes aspire to.

Remember this, though - when the Giants were born, the AFL needed Canberra as much as Canberra needed the Giants.

Crowds for Giants games at Skoda Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park only just exceed those in Canberra, even though Canberra receives the lesser-drawing teams.

Following Saturday's match with St Kilda, the other two games in Canberra are against the Gold Coast Suns and the Western Bulldogs.

As well as the three premiership games and one pre-season match a year, the add-ons in the deal include the formation of a Giants academy in the ACT, community visits, and signage promoting Canberra at Giants games in western Sydney.

The AFL could see the immense potential for bringing a team on a semi-regular basis to Canberra.

For years, one-off games involving the Sydney Swans had been well supported by a city with a rich Aussie rules heritage.

Canberra doesn't have the population or the substantial corporate backing required to underpin an AFL team of its own.

Football Federation Australia has encountered the same issues with plans for a Canberra A-League team.

The Brumbies and the Raiders will continue to be the two major football strongholds in the ACT, but the Giants are finding their niche.

So much so the Raiders issued a not-so-subtle dig at their new neighbours a day before they are in action only hours apart.

A press release titled ''come and see Canberra's local Giants'' highlighted the massive forward packs in the Raiders' clash with the New Zealand Warriors.

Not one mention of the word AFL, or the Giants' match.

This is anything but a friendly alliance between rival codes. Don't expect Raiders chief executive Don Furner to be sending his Giants counterpart David Matthews a Christmas card any time soon.

Furner has been a vocal opponent of the Giants, claiming they are here merely for a cash grab and don't have the region's best interests at heart.

The fact the Giants have pocketed the lion's share of the money from the naming-rights deal of Manuka Oval opens up a can of worms .

Does Canberra Stadium have a permanent name?

Does it change week to week depending on what code plays there?

The latter option sounds ridiculous, but so does the notion of calling the iconic ground in the inner south Manuka Oval over summer and Startrack Oval Canberra in winter.