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Melbourne hoping to extend NT deal until 2018

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MELBOURNE is looking to extend its agreement with the Northern Territory to play two home games in 2017 and 2018.

Northern Territory minister for sport and recreation Nathan Barrett confirmed last week that negotiations had begun between his department, the AFL and Melbourne to further the relationship.

Barrett said the Demons had managed the three-year relationship in a professional manner and both parties had identified potential ways to improve existing community programs and develop AFL in the Northern Territory.  

"Territorians love their AFL and I am committed to getting the best deal for the Northern Territory, we support the Demons, we are happy with them and we are negotiating with them," Barrett said.

Both the Demons and the AFL game and market development manager Simon Lethlean are understood to be keen for the relationship between the NT Government and Melbourne to continue with discussions between the parties progressing well.  

Melbourne, who began hosting games in Darwin in 2011, is understood to have made about $500,000 a game in the Northern Territory with the past two seasons including a home game in Alice Springs as well as Darwin.

In 2016, the Demons play Port Adelaide in Alice Springs and Fremantle in Darwin.

They have not won in the Northern Territory since 2011 but their game against West Coast in Darwin last year attracted 11,873 spectators.

There had been local speculation that Essendon, which has a long history of recruiting players from the Northern Territory including former champion Michael Long, was interested in playing a game up north after officials visited the region recently but understands that is unlikely.

Former Bombers coach Kevin Sheedy – a significant figure in connecting the AFL to Northern Territory talent – was among the party meeting the NT Government, AFLNT and community groups to discuss how to strengthen the Bombers partnerships in the region.

The Bombers have been allocated West Arnhem to establish a club branded academy in the region.

Port Adelaide has also played at least one game a season in the Northern Territory since 2008 and has a strong central corridor strategy that connects the club to the region.

But neither Essendon or Port Adelaide has spare home games available to consider playing one in the Northern Territory with both clubs attracting strong crowds in their home states.