AFL boss Gillon McLachlan believes the sport can become the most dominant code in Canberra within five years, adamant its future will not hinge on a major redevelopment Manuka Oval.
But McLachlan said the AFL would be willing to invest in upgrades at the Canberra venue if plans to improve Manuka progress in the coming years.
McLachlan was in the capital on Friday to watch the GWS Giants play against the defending premier Western Bulldogs in a historic clash for the sport in Canberra.
The sell-out crowd was another indication of how the Giants have entrenched themselves in Canberra as part of a 10-year deal worth $23 million with the ACT government.
The Giants say Canberra is in danger of losing some of its AFL content if Manuka Oval doesn't get a major facelift after having an $800 million redevelopment proposal knocked back last year.
But McLachlan reiterated the AFL's long-term commitment in Canberra and expected the relationship between the Giants and government to continue regardless of Manuka Oval's future.
"The Giants are hopefully here [in Canberra] to stay, we'd like to roll that deal out and [ACT chief minister] Andrew Barr has shown great leadership in that deal and support for that game," McLachlan said.
Asked if the deal would have the condition of Manuka being improved, McLachlan said: "No, certainly not in my mind. I can't speak for the Giants.
"I want the deal to go ahead because the Giants have played an important role in Canberra and Canberra has been incredibly important to the Giants.
"We talk to all governments in all markets about investments in stadia because it's important ... we'll talk about that but I don't see it as related."
The Giants partnered with developer Grocon last year to table an $800 million unsolicited bid to upgarde Manuka Oval and the surrounding precinct.
It would have included an investment of between $80 to $100 million specifically to upgrade the oval, but it was dumped by the government on the eve of the ACT election last year.
The government will invest in upgrading Manuka Oval ahead of Canberra's first international cricket Test in the 2018-19 summer.
But it is also weighing up the costs of the Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos clean up, the lightrail project and a new $300 million rectangular stadium in Civic.
Asked if the AFL would be willing to invest in Manuka Oval improvements, McLachlan said: "We have a history of being the only sport that chips into infrastructure across the country.
"We would look forward to discussions [with the government] at the right time. This market has really thrown its arms around the Giants. This is a footy town and we want to be here long term.
"At some point the public demands new infrastructure. These are community assets that need reinvestment."
The Giants have competed with the ACT Brumbies and Canberra Raiders for fans in recent years, but have built a hardcore base of support.
The codes have gone head to head in different timeslots in recent years and McLachlan didn't hesitate in saying the AFL's goal was to be the most dominant sport in Canberra.
"I feel confident. If you look at where football was [in Canberra] five or six years ago, we're in a very different spot," McLachlan said.
"There are 13 new women's teams alone in Canberra this year. There's a very different vibe and a lot of energy.
"There is a clear view this is Canberra's team. We're committed and the [Giants] are committed. That certainty is what has been lacking for a long time.
"...I was thrilled to see AFL is back as the dominant code in this market. And I'm hoping in five years time it's unassailably No. 1. We'll keep investing and partnering with the Giants to make sure we're delivering."