Albury turns on heat for A-League

Melbourne Heart could continue to host days out in the country despite the oppressive heat that marred its 2-1 win over Perth Glory in Albury.


Around 7,000 people turned out – with a handful making the long trip from Perth – for the one-off regional match in the Riverina with the mercury above 40 degrees for much of the match.

David Williams’ late winner ensured they would leave as happy Heart fans but it was Albury mayor Kevin Mack who was the most satisfied man in the city at the prospect of an ongoing deal with the newly rich club.

Mack met with representatives of the club’s new Manchester City owners in Melbourne last week and was told the Heart would still be committed to regional communities.

“They’re very excited about growing the game into this region because we’ve got a strong soccer presence here,” Mack said.

“We’re really challenging the rest of regional Australia to say, ‘We can do this – can you?'”

Heart’s chief executive Scott Munn told a match-day function the club felt embraced by the Albury community.

“We’re not doing this because it’s good commercially, and I can tell you the coach would rather play as many games at our home ground as he can,” he said.

“We’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do.”

Lavington Oval resembled a country show for the day, complete with fairy floss, stallholders and even horses running around the paddocks behind the portable big screen.

Among the punters was Glory devotee Tom Ashton, who had flown from Perth and driven from Melbourne for the game with half a dozen fans.

“Why’d we come? The fact it’s in the middle of nowhere,” he said, wiping off sweat.

“We’ve got two away games in a row so we decided to make a holiday of it.”

The group – complete with Western Australian flag and chants – picked up a few other purple-clad fans to make their own miniature away end.

In the heat, it was the Wet Bulb Grobe Temperature (WBGT) reading that Heart officials were sweating over – with the match already postponed to 5pm to avoid the sun’s hottest hours.

The all-important WBGT – used by the A-League to determine whether the game should go ahead or not – measure read 30 degrees at 4pm and had only dropped to 29.4 by kick-off, leading officials to implement three drinks breaks in addition to the half-time break.

Aside from the sweat patches adorning many spectators, the sole black mark came from the Heart’s travelling active fans, who let off two flares after their side took the lead – a poor choice, considering much of Victoria was enduring bushfires on a total fire ban day.

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