On a wet and chilly Sunday afternoon I hit the highway from Brisbane to head down the M1 to the Gold Coast to take in the Gold Coast Suns AFL fan experience at Metricon Stadium in Nerang.
Today’s match was to be the Suns versus the Brisbane Lions in the annual QCLASH derby as well as representing an ANZAC Day ceremony to honour our servicemen and women.
I prepped for the match day by getting my daughter Ramona all dressed up in a Gold Coast Suns dress that I bought for her to show her support for another Queensland team (her first ever dress- which she hated, the dress that is!) while I pulled out my Brisbane Bears wool guernsey, grabbed my Sherrin footy, new Lions cord cap from the Lions shop and some fresh ANZAC biscuits to share with mates and laminated my printed out match day ticket to save as my ticket memento to go into my box of 1000+ tickets from 30 years of live events – anything to keep the physical part of the event day ticking on in my opinion.
The fan journey started at 1pm with a quick 50 minute car journey via tolls from Brisbane to Nerang Railway Station. Nerang Station has ample parking and a lockable bicycle station as well as open bike racks. I made sure to park via the exits under security cameras for better safety and to get away faster at the end of the night however by 2pm the car park was filling up with Lions and Suns fans meaning that this is a safe and secure place to leave your car and head to the match due to the number of people coming through here on match days.
Once parked I made my way through the station to the bus terminal area where the game day buses were starting up at 2pm to ferry fans to Metricon Stadium. The buses were free for fans with the transport included within the ticket, as was the train from Brisbane if fans had chosen to catch the train from Brisbane to Nerang Station. However with track work today on the Gold Coast line, driving to the station and then catching this free bus seemed like the best option.
The bus driver was cheerful as Suns and Lions fans hoped on the bus and I was impressed with security greeting everyone that was getting on and asking us who would win while the bus driver was equally impressive ensuring that fans were safely picked up along the way despite there only being the one designated stop at the venue which was a helpful thing to do for those fans who were walking to the ground. The bus arrived directly outside the stadium after a short five minute journey which made it a seamless entry into the ground. It was also important to note that since my last visit here a couple of years ago, parking restrictions have gone up similar to around The Gabba and Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane meaning restrictions apply on match days and it is not advisable to try to park as you risk a fine.
Parking is also available within the stadium for only $20 via the Ticketmaster site however this does seem to sell out quickly in the week leading up to match day. Metricon also has a ride share and public pick up and drop off zone near the venue too with accessible entry and exit to the stadium.
Making our way into the stadium was seamless and we were greeted by a ‘hello’ and ‘thanks for coming’ by the venue staff. I then made my way over to the AFL Record stand and picked up a copy of the ANZAC round AFL Record which is still a bargain at $5 and a game day tradition I never miss.
This is one of my favourite AFL venues in Australia for a number of reasons. The views are great wherever you sit while the ease of access to get in and out to get food and drinks or to go to the toilets is also not a hassle. I love a venue you can walk the full distance around and here at Metricon Stadium you can walk both the inside and outside concourses to take in the full sights and smells of the match day as well as accessing all the types of food on offer and not being cut off by security or ushers.
On the food and beverage front while there were food trucks and permanent food stalls in abundance I found the food offering we sampled to be below par and quite disappointing however this was no doubt not the opinion of every fan who purchased food items at the event. The hot chips we purchased for $6.50 were flavourless (my friend had a delicious peppery salt on his while mine had nothing which was odd) and undercooked while the hot dog looked quite sad presentation wise for $6.50 and the pie for $5.75 had hard pastry like a rock. There was an assortment of options from Chipsters offering dagwood dogs and loaded fries to a Kebab stand meaning there truly was something for every fan to get around. There were also wings and chips and Hawaiian burger combos along with churros and even popcorn boxes to satisfy fans tastes and preferences for both young and old with the more substantial offerings costly $15-$17.
Prices seemed quite high compared to other venues for items such as hot dogs and chips while the beer was fresh and on par with Australian venues with a Carlton Mid tinnie (served into a plastic cup) at $8.95 while Great Northern schooners were $9.80 and craft beer from Pirate Life Brewing Co (CUB/South Australian) was $11.20 for their mid-strength or $8.50 for their 0.9% light beer which all in all represented normal pricing and a good variety for beer drinkers. Furthermore some bars did not have electronic boards displaying prices or price lists so you weren’t sure how much you were paying until it was round up at the til.
The venue has an impressive outside concourse as as well as an inside open concourse which offers plenty of space to roam, order food and drinks as well as find a space to sit and take in the event away from your actual seats. It’s one of my favourite grounds because of the open space and the flexibility you have to walk around the venue on a game day. There are multiple member’s bars (one with a live band called The Fifth Quarter) as well as a Carlton Draught bar for Suns members and fans while there are chairs and tables and plenty of green space including a massive oval only 50 metres from the stands where you can kick footies on all throughout the match day. This is a big incentive for families and young fans who who come along as they can bring in their footballs to the match and head out for a pre, mid or post game kick as we did with our own Sherrin that was a lot of fun.
The sponsor activation social spaces were impressive and included the Carlton Draught bar and a comfy couch seating area overlooking the field of play (could not see sponsor, perhaps Metricon). There were two sponsor activation set ups that really caught my eye though and these included the Metricon Homes ‘Terrace’ that was a fully fledged house within the stadium that included a balcony overlooking the field while the Plungie Pool area was also eye-catching with its pool, lifeguard and blue astroturf seating.
The toilets here were clean and spacious with no lines seen throughout the night for either the women’s or men’s with the men’s having a lot of space to walk in and out quickly with soap and tap all working fine. Hand sanitisers were available around the ground and after checking three which had sanitiser in them on my travels around the venue it was good to see them filled up unlike on recent stadium visits where they have been on show but not filled up.
The views are simply breathtaking here with views on the ground level or up in the stands affording fans a cracking close up view of the action no matter the seating rake. Behind the goals at the scoreboard is also a place worth sitting and while not undercover affords fans a close up view of the action. Sitting high up in section 216 we did still get slightly wet as the rain permeated through the worn roof tarps with the roof, rails and shades all looking like they need a thorough clean. The way-finding in the stadium was not too difficult to see where to go for food, seating sections or toilets but I thought it could be made a bit more clearer and in larger text to make it more visible. I saw a few ushers on the night cheerfully helping fans however there was not one in our stand or the one adjacent, however it seemed that fans made their way to their seats easily with the night running very smoothly as well for stadium staff. Accessible seating is clearly marked and available for those fans needing it while outside the concourses there are merchandise stands offering both Suns and away fans the option of securing a piece of merch.
The Suns fan engagement really stands out and is underrated in my opinion both for AFL teams and in other Australian sporting teams. The Suns really cater well for families and kids with a big feature being their Suns ‘Little Legends’ train that runs around the venue picking up young fans and families and taking them on a fun casual train ride around the outside of the stadium concourse. The Suns do a lot for their members with the social spaces previously listed however they also have a member raise their Suns flag up the flagpole each game while they also have a junior reporter, Suns photo wall, face painting, a kids zone out the back and a member’s guard of honour. Screen activations like Air Guitar and the on-field kick the footy into the Plungie Pool were also fun to watch – I reckon I could have nailed the kick into the footy easily (It’s all about wearing the right shoes for on field fan engagement if you’re ever selected to participate!).
It was also good to see the way the Suns acknowledge their members with big plaques inside the venue honouring those fans who have shown their dedication as members along with history charts across the seating bowl that highlight the Suns formation and history on the Gold Coast over the past decade.
The Suns ANZAC Day ceremony was handled respectfully and included a marching band, the last post and the national anthems and it was good to see everyone take their hats off and stand in silence to appreciate the ANZACs and what this day means to so many Australian and New Zealander’s.
While it was an entertaining game in the rain, the Lions ended up running away with the win 132-80 before the final siren sounded and fans made their exits. I found it easy to leave the venue and the signage for the buses back to Nerang Station or to Broadbeach were easily identifiable with bus staff also speaking to fans to ensure they were headed in the right direction. Within five minutes of lining up we were on a bus and on our way back to the train station which again only took five minutes journey before heading back to the cars and home within an hour to Brisbane.
A Gold Coast Suns AFL game day at Metricon Stadium is a very worthy event day visit in my opinion, either as a Suns fan or as in my case travelling for an away day as a Lions fan. From the views and the big oval for a kick to the Suns fan engagement andd the ease of the fan journey both in and out, it really represents an enjoyable AFL match day for Aussie Rules fans. There is so much on here for families and fans with the Suns clearly going the extra mile to create lasting memories for their members and fans and I could not more highly rate the Suns fan experience as an event worth checking out.