Optus on the agenda until 2006
Optus Oval will remain an AFL venue until at least 2006 regardless of whether Carlton decides to shift from the last remaining suburban ground next year.
The Blues are on the verge of leaving their century old home to play their home games at both Telstra Dome and the MCG.
A number of possible options for future Carlton home games have been mentioned in the media, including a mix of games between the MCG and Telstra Dome and perhaps a mix between Optus Oval, the MCG and Telstra Dome. Until the Board of the Carlton Football Club forms an interim recommendation on Carlton's future home games the speculation on the future of Optus Oval will continue.
But while there is likely to be no games at Optus Oval in 2005, there certainly will be in 2006 - although they may not involve the Blues.
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou has confirmed the league will need Optus Oval to stage matches in 2006, due to the MCG being unavailable in the early weeks of that season due to the Commonwealth Games.
"We will need Optus Oval in 2006," Demetriou told Fox Footy's On The Couch program.
"The MCG will be unavailable for the first six rounds so we will need to play some games during that period at Optus Oval.
"We can't play all the games at Telstra Dome."
The MCG will be unavailable during that period while the athletics track that will be laid around the MCG for the games - which will be held in late March - is removed.
The ground is expected to be unavailable until at least round seven, meaning the league is likely to schedule at least one or maybe even two games at Optus Oval each weekend, for the first six rounds.
And most Victorian clubs are likely to have to play at least one home game at Optus Oval during this period.
However the future of the ground - one of the foundation grounds in the competition - beyond 2006 remains uncertain, although it is expected to become a specialist training ground not only for Carlton but also possibly Melbourne and the Kangaroos.
But whenever the end does come for Optus Oval, it will signify the end of an era in the AFL because of its status as the last remaining suburban ground in Melbourne.
Other suburban grounds that have ceased to be an AFL venue in recent years include Victoria Park (1999), Western Oval (1997), Windy Hill (1991), Moorabbin (1992), Arden Street (1985), Junction Oval (1984), Lake Oval (1982) and then much further back to Glenferrie (1973), Brunswick Street (1966) and Punt Road (1964).