For the vast majority of Melburnians – let’s say, around 80% or so – there’s two main questions bouncing around the head at the moment. “Are we all going to die?” and “What’s going on with the footy?” While the former has no real definitive answer at the moment beyond “yes, if idiots won’t stop packing out Moonee Ponds Central every fucking weekend,” the latter is getting more and more intriguing by the day.
With coronavirus-free states rushing to partially close their borders to NSW once again, plans for the on-going 2020 AFL season have once again been thrown into disarray. The handful of Melbourne-based teams who had previously set up camp in a competition hub in NSW are suddenly finding themselves in need of sanctuary once again. And it’s Queensland coming to the game’s rescue.
The rugby league heartland, well beyond the boundaries of the Barassi Line, is already hosting six of the ten Victoria teams as part of the league’s hub model. Soon, two more will join them. The remaining two teams will be based in Perth on a rotating basis.
In confirming that this morning, QLD Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also made a bold play for the AFL’s crown jewel: The 2020 AFL Grand Final.
League officials have reportedly all-but abandoned any hope of playing any of this year’s remaining games in Victoria, with the season now set to be largely based in Queensland’s two AFL-ready stadiums, the Gabba in Brisbane and Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast.
Premier Palaszczuk issued a statement this morning confirming arrangements are being made with AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan to host the two extra teams in Queensland for the foreseeable future. However she also went one step further in asserting Queensland should also host the Grand Final as a result.
— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) July 14, 2020
“As everyone knows, AFL is more than a sport to Victorians. We know how they feel. Given the choice between not having a season and having it based in Queensland, I think I know what the fans would like to happen. It means more Queenslanders can see more games. It’s another tick for the legacy of the Commonwealth Games and the Gold Coast’s Metricon Stadium. It’s more fire in the belly for the Suns and the Lions. And, as I told Gil, if the season is based here – then the Grand Final should be played here too!” the statement read.
Though the AFL has a long-standing agreement with the MCG, who holds hosting rights to the Grand Final until 2037, the broad consensus is that a Grand Final played in an empty stadium will suck ass. And so for the first time in league history, the biggest game of the year appears all-but certain to be on the move.
While last week Sydney’s ANZ Stadium was the clear frontrunner for the game, the upswing in coronavirus cases in NSW has just about ruled that out completely, leaving the door wide open.
Brisbane and the Gabba seems to be the likely frontrunner now, given the presence of the Victorian teams, the favourable timezone, and the proximity to east coast corporate dollars. The potential to play the game in front of a capacity crowd of 42,000 also stands in Queensland’s favour.
However this is likely to face strident opposition from both Adelaide Oval and Optus Stadium in Perth, both of which are glittering arenas that lack the Slowly Crumbling Into Dust aesthetic that the Gabba has in spades.
No matter what, it appears all-but certain that an AFL Grand Final will take place outside of Victoria for the very first time this year. And that alone is quite the thing indeed.Image: Getty Images / Jono Searle