If the AFL’s proposal to send North Melbourne to the Gold Coast had succeeded, the Kangaroos would be ‘celebrating’ a decade in their new home, with the club due to complete its relocation in 2010.
However, as history shows, North Melbourne has remained where it belongs, in North Melbourne.
10 years after his club was due to play as Gold Coast for the first time, former North Melbourne chief executive Eugene Arocca joined The Inner Sanctum to talk about how the club was saved in a four-part series called ‘Saving North Melbourne’.
This is Part Two of our four-part series, click here if you’d like to read Part One: The first 12 months.
Saving North Melbourne part two – returning the name
North Melbourne had dropped its name, and became simply known as the Kangaroos from 1999.
There was a bid to change the name to the Northern Kangaroos in 1998, which was unsuccessful.
In a bid to appeal nationally, the club had changed its name to simply the ‘Kangaroos’, which was largely unsuccessful.
As a part of putting full faith in the club, Arocca said returning to the club’s roots was vital.
“I think it was critical to us from a strategic point of view that needed to reconnect to Arden Street and the North Melbourne area,” he said.
“I remember walking down the main street and I took about three players, including Adam Simpson with me, and went into every shop and we stuck a poster on every window.
“The reception was muted, as in to say okay you’re going to give it a crack but we think you’re pretty stuffed.
“They had given up on us because we’d dropped North Melbourne and called ourselves the Kangaroos.”
Tearing apart the Gold Coast deal
Aside from the location of its base, the Kangaroos had little connection to the area.
The club had ditched its name, and it had signed a deal to play a certain amount of games per season interstate.
As well as giving back the name, ripping apart a controversial deal that brought money into the club was a significant tick from the supporters.
“We think from a local point of view, saying to the government and the council, stick with us, we’re going back to our roots, we’re going back to the community, we’re going to build a centre that’s going to be state of the art, we’re going to have a huddle in there for community interaction and physically walking up and down and reconnecting with that business community,” Arocca said.
“I think our members really said okay, this mob is committed to not playing interstate anymore and we terminated the Gold Coast deal, where we had one year to go.
“We said to the AFL we’re happy to walk away from the money you’re giving us for the 2-3 games, we’re handing back the keys there and you can start developing your own club.
“I think our members really took noticed of that, they’ve turned back the Gold Coast, they’re not taking the games, they’ve changed their name back to North Melbourne, they’re investing in the community, they’re reconnecting with their members, the businesses, the schools, and I reckon it sent a really powerful message in that first year.”
The Kangaroos’ membership numbers were the second worst behind the Brisbane Lions in 2007 and it was looking bleak.
Yet, they boasted a 45.80 per cent boost in membership numbers, which helped save the club.
“We got a record climb in membership numbers that really dug us out of a hole,” Arocca said.
North Melbourne’s 2019 numbers sat at 42,419, which is 20,000 more than it had in 2007, showcasing the significant stability and growth at Arden Street.
Part 3: Rebuilding Our Home will be released August 15.