This year’s AFL grand final will take place under the lights at the Gabba.
Thanks to Western Australia’s strict border protocols, the Eagles are now looking at the prospect of playing all of their finals matches away from home.
With the traditional grand final host, the MCG unable to accommodate the event, due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria, AFL chief Gillon McLachlan confirmed on Wednesday that this year’s grand final will be hosted at the Gabba, much to the scrutiny of many Western Australians, including Federal MP Matt Keogh.
On Monday morning, Keogh scolded McLachlan’s decision, hours before the announcement actually came through, claiming that the AFL had once again “screwed over” Western Australia.
“It (Queensland) is not even a football state. How on earth do you overlook Western Australia with all of the lack of restrictions, all of the capacity to fill into that stadium and you overlook Western Australia.”Federal MP for Burt, Matt Keogh.
Keogh’s fury was evident, as he then stormed off with his back to the camera. And Keogh was right to be angry, missing the opportunity to grow the game in WA by hosting the final at the Optus Stadium, which is also one of the largest and most technologically advanced stadiums in the league, is shattering for the West Coast.
But as things are heating up at the top of the table with Geelong, Brisbane, and the Eagles all tied up on 40 points, there is still a job to be done on the pitch despite the disappointing decision going against the Eagles.
Eagles players know the competition is rife at the top of the table, and to be worthy grand final champions, they need to be able to beat the top teams and win away from home.
“The venue doesn’t really phase us. It’s about getting ourselves ready and trying to win games.”Tom Cole
How did Brisbane win it?
But even with all WA’s relaxed internal restrictions, it was ultimately its restrictive border that prooved a big enough problem for McLachlan to drop the Optus Stadium from the running, while nominating the Adelaide Oval as the back-up plan should a COVID-19 outbreak occur in Brisbane.
McLachlan confirmed that Queensland will host the final as part of their partnership with the AFL, after creating a safe environment for players and fans to attend matches throughout the 2020 season. And in fairness to Queensland, they do deserve it, after doing an excellent job of hosting multiple games during what has been a particularly costly season for the AFL.
“This decision to hold the game in Queensland continues a partnership between the AFL and the Queensland government that has been strengthened again this year as we sought and received support to set up high-performance centres to keep our season going.”Gillon McLachlan.
What time will the Final be?
In the most unconventional season in AFL history, it appears the usual timing for the final will be pushed back from the regular day time kick-off, to an evening game, something which league bosses have been angling for, for some time now.
This isn’t something uncommon though, as last year multiple finals matches were played under the lights. Obviously night games are always better, there’s something about going to watch the footy under the lights that makes the atmosphere that bit more electric.
But it appears the real decision has been made to accommodate broadcast schedules, firstly to with the Cox Plate taking place the same day, and also to build greater advertising revenue with the game set to take up a prime time Saturday evening TV slot.
Any Eagles fans able to make the trip to the Gabba will have already started dreaming of the prospect of getting a ticket.
The maximum capacity for the grand final has not yet been announced, but provided there are no more Coronavirus outbreaks in Queensland, it is expected that over 30,000 spectators could attend the final.
Little information has been released as on how ticket allocation is going to work, but it seems McLachlan hinted members of both finalist clubs will be prioritised first, with the AFL grassroots community coming second in line for tickets.
The decision is still a massive blow for the West Coast and their fans, with the team being a favourite to make the grand final all season. But in what has been a phenomenal season for the West Coast, Eagles fans will still be hoping to see their team lift the trophy on 24th October.