Three years after St Kilda Saints management vowed never to return to Queenstown, the Aussie Rules team have done an about turn.
The Melbourne-based Saints will spend 10 days in the resort as part of its high-performance training camp.
The team last visited the resort in 2011 in the wake of an alleged sex scandal in Australia.
A teenage girl who claimed she became pregnant to a Saint Kilda star in 2010, later allegedly miscarrying twins, posted nude pictures of players she had allegedly stolen from defender Sam Gilbert’s laptop.
While the team was in Queenstown, long-time resident and restaurateur Danny Carson claimed Gilbert “slammed” him to the ground after an early-hours verbal altercation in the mall.
Carson confronted Gilbert about allegedly urinating on the shop window of Champions of the World.
The scuffle was broken up by another local man before bouncer Mike Barnes saw Carson with blood on his head.
No charges were laid by Carson and then Saints football manager Greg Hutchinson denied all allegations, stating they had “absolutely no foundation”.
At the time, he told Mountain Scene the team had spent about $250,000 in the resort and “won’t be coming back” because he would not suggest the team go to a place where “someone’s going to terrorise them”.
In just over a month, however, about 44 of the players will arrive in Queenstown, where they will hike through “famous mountains”, tackle “the rapids of Arthurs Peak” and use state-of-the-art training facilities.
Team spokeswoman Breanna Gallagher says the camp had been held in Boulder, Colorado for the past two years, but denied that was because of ”the incident” in the resort.
”It was because we had a new coach who wanted to go to Boulder … because they had a bit of an affiliation there.
”New Zealand is one of our key strategies … since then, we’ve had another new coach … after undertaking pre-season in Boulder, we decided to return to Queenstown because it provides the perfect backdrop [for the team].”
Since 2011, there had been a massive, ongoing ”regeneration” at the club, with a new-look management team and new strategies, the spokeswoman said.
When asked if players would be under any special instruction during down time in the resort, Gallagher says their focus would be on training.
Saints chief executive Matt Finnis says his players are “very much looking forward” to their visit to Queenstown, an “outstanding location not too far from home”.
“While the high-performance camp will be a demanding and difficult camp in many ways, the scenery is amazing and the activities planned will definitely be a step away from standard pre-season training.”
The playing list will be spread over Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch for three days as part of the Australia Post AFL community camp from December 1-3, before the squad meets in Queenstown.
The resort has previously hosted the Western Bulldogs and the Geelong Cats, who, along with the Saints, have been based at the Queenstown Events Centre for training.
The New Zealand Kiwis rugby league team will be in Queenstown on Monday and Tuesday, as it prepares for its Four Nations match against England in Dunedin on November 8.
– Otago Daily Times