'Can't go back': AFL big-wig responds to night grand final furore

Chris Young
·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
A 50-50 split image shows the Richmond Tigers celebrating their 2020 AFL premiership on the left, and Gold Coast Suns chairman Tony Cochrane on the right.
Gold Coast Suns chairman Tony Cochrane, a key figure in Queensland hosting the AFL's first night grand final, says critics of Saturday night's spectacle are 'dribblers'. Pictures: Getty Images

Gold Coast Suns chairman Tony Cochrane has thrown his support behind the AFL’s night grand final, despite heavy backlash among fans and other club chiefs suggesting it should be a one off.

Richmond toppled Geelong in the first AFL grand final to be played under lights after Cochrane was one of the key voices behind the push to host the grand final in Queensland, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus in the match’s traditional home of Melbourne.

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Fan opinion was mixed about the night grand final with many, including Richmond captain Trent Cotchin, calling for the match to return to its traditional afternoon slot.

Cochrane rejected those calls outright, labelling critics of the night grand final ‘dribblers’ and suggesting the AFL should maintain the night grand final thanks to the massive TV audience.

The Suns boss said it would be ‘pretty hard to wind back’ the massive sponsorship exposure the night grand final earned.

“You can look at this in many ways but pretty much every major sporting event in the world now is played at night and it’s played at night for a very simple reason, to maximise TV ratings,” Cochrane told the Herald Sun.

“It had phenomenal T.V ratings. The pre-game entertainment was double the ratings of last year.”

The 2020 grand final was a hit with viewers at home, earning a national average television audience of 3.812 million and peaking at 4.283 million viewers.

Mixed response to first night AFL grand final

Wet weather wreaked havoc on planned half-time entertainment, with Cochrane revealing a temporary stage that would have been used by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and other performers had to be ditched at the last minute due to the conditions.

Nonetheless, Cochrane said critics of the half-time show were ill-informed.

“The easiest thing in life is to be a critic,” he said.

“The only thing those writing it have ever done with their lives is work out how to tap a message on their phone.

“I’m not particularly interested in what the dribblers of the world want to say.”

Richmond's Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin are pictured celebrating together after the 2020 AFL grand final.
Richmond's Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin embrace after defeating Geelong in the AFL grand final on Saturday night. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Richmond fan and reporter Waleed Aly and AFL veteran reporter Caroline Wilson have taken aim at the night AFL grand final and called for a return to the norm in 2021.

Many fans and commentators were left complaining that the later start ruined the build-up to the big game, while other found it odd the match wasn’t held at the iconic MCG.

“It doesn't gel with me,” Collingwood great Tony Shaw told 3AW radio.

“I think this day should come to an end early so we can then all celebrate.

"Finishing the game at 10:30, I wouldn't want to do it as a player.”

And Aly was one to also call for a switch back the norm.

Aly, a Richmond supporter, said he felt the spectacle was turning the grand final ‘game’ into an ‘event’.

“I hated it. I hated it,” Aly said on ABC’s Offsiders.

“I feel like it’s the kind of thing you like when you don’t actually care about the game that’s happening itself. It’s the kind of thing you gravitate towards when you want it to be an event, not a game. That’s exactly what it felt like.”

Footy Classified’s Wilson supported this sentiment and said it would be a ‘disgrace’ if the AFL use this season, interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, to make such a significant change to the grand final.

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