Cruel truth exposed in 123-year AFL grand final first

Andrew Reid
·4-min read
Pictured here, Dustin Martin celebrates Richmond's 2019 AFL grand final win.
For the first time in its 123-year history the AFL grand final will not be played in Victoria. Pic: Getty

For the first time in the 123-year history of the AFL, the grand final will have a new home outside of Victoria.

The Gabba will be announced as the host venue of the 2020 AFL grand final on Wednesday afternoon as the competition's showpiece event leaves Victoria for the first time.

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With Victoria's COVID-19 breakout forcing the state into lockdown, the AFL faced a dilemma of where to play the grand final, which would normally attract about 100,000 fans at the MCG.

The state governments of Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales put cases forward to host it, but Queensland was always in the box seat given the assistance the state has provided to the AFL to help keep the season afloat.

The prospect of the AFL showpiece being moved away from the MCG - which has a contract to host it until 2057 - has been on the radar for some time now, with Victoria's coronavirus crisis forcing officials to explore other options.

However, a new report from SEN reveals just how close the iconic ground came to retaining grand final hosting rights in 2020.

“The MCG discovered it had fallen an agonising two weeks short of being able to let crowds back in, according to COVID modelling,” SEN reported.

“It’s understood the Victorian Racing Club are putting plans in place to allow limited crowds into races during the Spring Carnival — primarily in open areas at Flemington — should they be given the green light to do so.

“The MCC is confident on the Boxing Day Test going ahead with fans, there’s talk about crowds at NBL games and Tennis Australia is fully planning to run the Australian Open.”

While it’s a cruel blow for the MCG and Victorian footy fans, the situation presents Queensland with a golden opportunity to capitalise on one of the biggest events on the Aussie sporting calendar.

The AFL Commission on Tuesday ratified a recommendation from AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan to play the grand final at the Gabba.

McLachlan will make an official announcement at about 1.30pm on Wednesday from the AFL's transition hub on the Gold Coast.

The Gabba will have a capped crowd, with about 30,000 fans slated to attend the October 24 spectacle.

The match is also set to be played under lights - either with a twilight or night bounce down - in another move that breaks with tradition.

Iconic Brisbane rock supergroup Powderfinger have emerged as an early frontrunner to provide the grand final pre-game entertainment, in news that will surely be music to the ears of many Australians.

The time slot will avoid a clash with horse racing's Cox Plate and will appeal to broadcasters, who expect a massive television audience in prime time.

Seen here, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan talking to the media.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan is set to announce the Gabba as the host of the 2020 grand final on Wednesday. Pic: Getty

Excitement builds over Gabba hosting news

Premiership contenders West Coast (Optus Stadium) and Port Adelaide (Adelaide Oval) are expected to be allowed to host any home finals at their regular home grounds in the lead-up to the grand final.

Premiership coaches Chris Scott and Damien Hardwick are among the prominent AFL figures who believe Queensland deserves hosting rights for the grand final.

Brisbane captain Dayne Zorko, a Queensland product, welcomed the decision.

"When I was a kid coming up at school, I would've been one of maybe four that played (Australian Rules) in the school and that even followed AFL," Zorko told SEN radio.

"Now the fact that the city of Brisbane will get the grand final, it's a real opportunity to grow the game significantly up here.

"Hopefully this is a platform for that to be achieved."

Victoria holds a long-term contract to host the grand final - through the state government and MCC, operator of the MCG - and will be compensated for losing this year's decider.

It is understood the existing contract, which runs through to 2057, will be extended by one more year.

with AAP