Outgoing AFLW boss Nicole Livingstone has defended the use of tiny Princes Park for Sunday's grand final, arguing a bit of 'FOMO' is a good thing for the competition. A crowd of 12,616 crammed into Carlton's headquarters for the North Melbourne-Brisbane Lions decider after the AFLW rejected calls to shift the game to the 53,000-seat Docklands Stadium.
A record crowd of 53,034 people packed into Adelaide Oval to watch the Crows win the title in 2019, while other grand finals have produced big turn-outs. Critics believe the AFLW cost itself at least an extra 20,000 fans but Livingstone, who will finish up as general manager after seven years in the role, is adamant her organisation got it right. And she declared FOMO – or Fear Of Missing Out – was a key factor in the decision.
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Asked on ABC TV's 'Offsiders' program whether playing the grand final at a small suburban ground rather than an iconic football venue was sending the right message to young girls, Livingstone suggested demand outstripping supply was a positive. "I think heartland venues and the connection to the community as you’re building something new – in particular the WBBL and the AFLW are relatively new products in the marketplace – the strategy we'd had is that the smaller venue and packing that out is creating a great atmosphere.
"It’s also creating a fear of missing out as well. People are desperate to get there – so desperate that maybe they watch it on TV (instead). We're trying to raise the visibility of women's sport as well. It’s a great atmosphere for the players but also a very good opportunity to show that we can pack out 13,800.
"Even Emma Kearney, who's the captain of North Melbourne, has actually said she is appreciative of that crowd and where’s she going to play. Right now, as we're trying to bring a new audience to AFLW, the smaller heartland venues are better."
Asked how long it would be before the AFLW was playing grand finals at major stadiums, Livingstone replied: "Until you get the crowd to actually match the venue. I think people have actually changed the way they consume sport – maybe not men's sport - but certainly women's sport continues to need to build its audience and we have committed to that." Livingstone, who represented Australia at swimming in three Olympics, helped grow the AFLW from an eight-team, seven-game season to an 18-club competition.
What an absolutely ridiculous cop-out. The AFLW Grand Final has packed out Adelaide Oval multiple times. Downsizing to such a small venue is a blatant disrespect to the players, and Livingstone just can’t admit that she has made the wrong decision.
— JJJ (@jonnyjamesjones) December 3, 2023
Nicole Stevenson ducking and weaving and putting spin it on it. Rather than just admit it, the AFLW(via AFL) made a mistake and underestimated how many GF tickets would be sold. Should be at Marvel next yr/or Kardinia Park
— Steve Mitchell (@stevemitchell80) December 3, 2023
Women’s sport is the single biggest growth genre in global entertainment and the AFL is piss farting around with it - do a deal for a boutique 30,000 seat stadium say at the Showgrounds - build it and they will come
— Rickster (@rickydbryan) December 3, 2023
They got 53,000 in Adelaide a few years ago. The interest is there, but the AFLW haven't done what they need to do to replicate it.
— Michael Shillito (@tealfooty) December 3, 2023
Brisbane shock North Melbourne to win AFLW flag
On Sunday, the Lions thrived on their underdog tag to claim a second AFLW premiership after storming home to beat North Melbourne by 17 points. After trailing by seven points at three-quarter time, the Lions were able to avenge last year's grand final defeat against Melbourne to win 7.2 (44) to 4.3 (27).
"I think we kind of like being the underdog. I think it suits us," said Lions captain Bre Koenen, who was named best on ground. "We've been the underdog for, somehow, a really long time over our history, so I think the girls revel in it.
"It almost gives you a perspective of we've got nothing to lose, like we can take risks and we can play the way we want. I think it gives the girls confidence, strangely enough."
North coach Darren Crocker was left disappointed at the result, but excited about the future. "We spoke about climbing the mountain, and we've taken so many steps forward," he said.
"We put ourselves in a position to win that game, win our first ever AFLW premiership. We were right there, but just couldn't finish the job. I just said to the girls, 'Don't be disheartened' by it because we've learned so much about ourselves and we've come so far this year'."
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