ST KILDA has taken another step in cementing its New Zealand strategy by appointing to its board a new director who will be based across the Tasman.
Liz Dawson has joined the Saints' board, bringing vast experience in New Zealand sport as the club prepares to play its third game in Wellington on Anzac Day next year.
Dawson is a director of the New Zealand Olympic Committee and the Wellington Hurricanes Super 15 Rugby team, as well as a board member of New Zealand Cricket.
St Kilda chief executive Matt Finnis said the appointment was a strong step forward for the Saints as they look to grow their presence in New Zealand.
"Liz has got an incredibly impressive resumé around governance in sport and she's really well credentialed to assist our club as we develop a strategy to drive AFL in New Zealand," Finnis told AFL.com.au.
"If you think about some of the key milestones in our New Zealand strategy, first and foremost you've got the first game we played on Anzac Day, then you've got our scholarship players.
"Now we've got a director on our board from New Zealand.
"I think it is a really important milestone as part of an evolving strategy to win the hearts and minds of New Zealanders and grow our club at the same time."
Saturday's clash against Richmond is New Zealand-themed, with St Kilda wearing its specially designed Anzac Day home guernsey and hosting a Trans-Tasman business forum on the Etihad Stadium boundary line pre-game.
Finnis said the themed game was part of the club's agreement with the Wellington City Council to promote the city and New Zealand as tourism destinations.
The Saints have completed a review of their New Zealand match this year, and talks are underway with the AFL and Wellington City Council to grow the game in 2015.
One option on the table is to play the game during the day as a way to increase attendance after 13,409 fans saw the Brisbane Lions win this year's Anzac Day clash at Westpac Stadium.
"We'd like to get more people attending the game, not just from Melbourne but also from domestic cities in New Zealand, such as Auckland where there is actually quite a good AFL footprint," Finnis said.
"We're also putting a strategy together around how we link in with the centenary of Anzac Day next year and the opening of a new Australian war memorial in Wellington on the same day."
St Kilda's opponent for next year's Anzac Day match is yet to be confirmed.
In 2013, the club made as much revenue playing one match in New Zealand as it did playing eight games at Etihad Stadium or two games at the MCG.
There were supporter concerns at the most recent Annual General Meeting that the club was on a path to relocation, but president Peter Summers reassured fans that was not the case.
The Saints have a strong recruiting presence in New Zealand, with Joe Baker-Thomas and Giovanni Mountain-Silbery holding international scholarships.