Ryan Fitzgerald's Coles sledge lights up 'unwatchable' footy

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

The footy world had some hilarious reactions to the strange scenes that played out at the MCG and ANZ Stadium on Thursday night.

But none were better than Ryan Fitzgerald’s.

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The AFL and NRL began life without fans on Thursday as Richmond beat Carlton and the Cowboys ran over the Bulldogs behind closed doors.

Richmond beat Carlton in an empty MCG. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

With the coronavirus crisis engulfing world sport, the Australian football codes are forging on without crowds.

Brendan Fevola described watching AFL without fans as ‘sh*t’, while many felt it was ‘unwatchable’.

But Fitzy had the best reaction as he summed up the current situation in Australia with one perfect tweet.

Posting a photo of the empty stands at the MCG featuring some advertising hoarding for Coles, Fitzy took a cheeky swipe at the popular supermarket.

“Coles advertising what their shelves look like at the moment,” the former Sydney Swans player wrote.

Fitzgerald was of course referring to the dire situation shoppers are facing at the moment with basic staples such as toilet paper, rice and pasta stripped from shelves as people continue to panic buy.

The new normal in coronavirus era

Welcome to the 2020 AFL premiership season - a season like no other.

It certainly was a strange sight as The Rolling Stones ‘Gimme Shelter’ blasted out of the PA system, Mick Jagger's iconic voice echoing around the cavernous MCG, as a small group of Richmond players stood in the centre circle taking in the scene.

An hour before the first bounce and the place should have been abuzz with excitement and anticipation as thousands of fans poured into the ground.

But with the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe there wasn’t 90,000 supporters on hand for the traditional season opener after the federal government banned gatherings of over 500 people.

Outside the ground, the few forlorn Tigers supporters peered through the glass doors, outnumbered by passing joggers.

There were similar scenes at ANZ Stadium as the Bulldogs took on the Cowboys. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Skippers Trent Cotchin and Sam Docherty arrived at the centre circle for the coin toss and shook hands, perhaps out of habit, with Cotchin's win greeted by silence.

Even more surreal was the eerie quiet as Ivan Soldo and Matthew Kreuzer lined up opposite each other for the opening bounce.

The sight of the balls being disinfected at quarter-time, the clear sound of the impact from over 100m away when Liam Baker and Riewoldt mugged Liam Jones for a free kick that ended in a goal to Kane Lambert.

The balls positioned strategically around the ground for players to pick up instead of chasing errant balls into the stands.

All part of the new norm.

Similar scenes at the NRL

Up at Sydney Olympic Park, the NRL also got a look at the new normal.

A total of 241 people were at the ground including players, with all asked questions as they entered the one open door about their health and travel history.

A journalist was turned away after only arriving from overseas less than a fortnight before the match.

Bench chairs were a metre apart for interchange players and coaching staff, while messages from fans were shown on the big screen before the match.

Balls were washed every 10 minutes on orders from the league, while every call from trainers and players could be heard clearly.

Even Johnathan Thurston had to determine his Dally M points remotely, under new rules from the NRL.

with AAP