Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in Victoria over the past month, states and territories across Australia are licking their lips over the prospects of having Melbourne’s sporting events be held in their major cities for the foreseeable future. One such event is the AFL Grand Final, which is traditionally played at the MCG.
The Grand Final is touted to be played in October, but with Victoria’s current situation looking bleak, it’s beyond doubt that for the first time since 1991 (where it was played at Waverley Park due to the MCG’s renovations) that the game was not held at the ‘G, and the first time in VFL/AFL history that the game will be played outside of Victoria. Cue in the looming vultures from interstate, looking to swoop in and take Victoria’s prized possession.
All of that being said, and with reality kicking in, we felt it best to look at each individual state and candidate for the 2020 Grand Final, and figure out who’d be best suited to host the event. A multitude of factors were considered, including the prevalence of COVID-19, weather, travel, popularity of the AFL in the respective state and stadium size and seating capacity.
The Queensland Government have made it clear in the past week that they are willing to hold the Grand Final. As far as COVID-19 is concerned, the state has handled the pandemic quite well. At the time of writing, a vast majority of cases have recovered, with the state having only experienced one positive case in the last 24 hours. Queensland looks to have done what they could to eradicate the virus, and are in a good position to be able to host such an event.
Regarding their grounds, Queensland boasts Brisbane’s Gabba and Gold Coasts’ Metricon – each have been used as part of the recent ‘hub’ programs for the teams, particularly the Victorian teams that have been forced up north. The Gabba seats 42,000, while Metricon seats 25,000. The lower numbers may prove costly for their case, as each ground struggles to be filled at the best of times, let alone at the worst of times.
Queensland is also known for its damp and humid weather, with a dew-like climate always taking place. The wet weather footy has seen some shambolic, chaotic and downright ugly footy take place. Typically, the Grand Final is usually dry and conditioned enough for teams to attack and excite. The risk of dampness and humidity, which will hurt the spectacle that has already suffered so much, may be a deterrent for the AFL to move their biggest event up to the Sunshine State.
For our money: it’s a ‘no’ from us.
New South Wales
This state was looking like one of the better prospects for hosting a grand final. Sydney itself holds the 48,000 capacity SCG and the 25,000 capacity Sydney Showground Stadium. Though Sydney is associated with the NRL more closely, AFL has begun to make headways in the city, due to the successes of the Sydney Swans over the years, and more recently, the GWS Giants, whom are looming as a flag contender this year once again, having finished as runners-up last year.
The grounds aren’t necessarily the biggest, both in size and capacity, but each has been capable of filling up to capacity and providing a raucous atmosphere across the ground, akin to what is desired for a season finale. There also is the chance of the Melbourne-Sydney rivalry coming at the forefront, with many Sydney-Siders potentially flocking to the grand final, just to spite their Melburnian rivals. The excitement and buzz generated around the city – particularly if GWS make it again – would also help out the case for the city.
However, there is still one glaring factor, looming over the city: the recent COVID-19 spike. Melbourne’s outbreak has possibly found its way into Sydney, with various hotspots being declared across the city. If the virus cannot be contained, then Sydney and NSW as a whole may have just cost themselves a chance at doing one over their rivals in Victoria.
As a result of this, we have to say ‘no’ to NSW.
Our island state is a sneaky and possible prospect to host the grand final. What it lacks for in size and prestige, it more than makes up for in reliability and efficiency in being able to host a grand final.
Out of the five Australian states (not including our territories, obviously) Tasmania has handled the virus the best, in terms of having the lowest number of cases. Due to them being an island, it’s allowed them to isolate themselves from the rest of the country, and prevent any positive cases from coming in and causing an outbreak, like we’ve seen in Victoria and NSW. Tasmania’s isolation also would leave them as a great spot for a hub, as the AFL can place the teams there and rest assured knowing an outbreak of COVID-19 is unlikely.
In terms of grounds, Tassie can choose between Blundstone Arena and the University of Tasmania Stadium each with the ability to host 19,000 fans. This is where their case does suffer, as 19,000 in attendance is simply not enough for a final, let alone a grand final. If the AFL is confident in getting a high crowd to the big dance, then they’ll have to look elsewhere.
Though Tasmania has done exceptionally well on the COVID front, their smaller stadiums leaves them a little short of being the best possible choice for the grand final.
Perhaps one of the best possible candidates, South Australia and its capital of Adelaide are highly capable of hosting the grand final, since now definitely not going to be played in Victoria.
Regarding the novel coronavirus, South Australia has reported only 443 positive tests, the best performance out of the mainland states in Australia. Restrictions have eased off gradually, with no signs of an outbreak, even though Victoria is right on its border. If the current trend continues, then Adelaide should be more than able to host a grand final with their stadium at full capacity.
On this stadium, Adelaide Oval has really proven its worth as a viable stadium for AFL standard over the last few years. The capacity of 53,500 is not standout compared to the MCG, of course, but given the current circumstances it’s still a worthy candidate. Adelaide’s pedigree as a footballing city cannot be underestimated, with the local Showdown being touted as perhaps the biggest ‘derby’ in all of the AFL. Port Adelaide’s form this season is also worth noting, as should they make it to the big dance it would generate a huge buzz in the city, especially if public gatherings will be increasingly allowed.
South Australia and Adelaide present a strong case, however, there is still one more that needs to be considered…
For our money, Western Australia and Perth are the ideal hosts for the 2020 AFL Grand Final.
If we talk in regards to COVID-19, the state has only experienced a total of 635 positive cases, only marginally more than South Australia and a great effort given it’s higher population than SA by nearly 900,000 people. Western Australia were stubborn with their border laws, and though it left a sour taste involving the quarantine hubs for the AFL, it has allowed WA and Perth to avoid major outbreaks compared to the other capital cities.
Out of all the potential stadiums, Optus Stadium is the best choice by far. The old heads in Victoria who still want everything to revolve around the ‘G can rest assured knowing that Optus Stadium is the closest the AFL can get to the ‘MCG experience’ of a grand final, at least in 2020. The dimensions of the stadium are marginally shorter than the MCG (165m x 130m vs 171m x 146m) and the capacity sits at 60,000 with the potential to increase by a few extra thousand – the biggest out of all of the non-Victorian candidates.
The seating itself of the stadium is quite large and impressive, giving off a similar atmosphere and vibe to what the MCG provides, again aiding its case as the best possible temporary replacement for the MCG. Optus Stadium is also brand new and boasts state-of-the-art technology for the ultimate fan experience, ahead of any other stadium in consideration. WA is also most definitely an ‘AFL state’, with its preferred sporting code being AFL as opposed to the NRL preferred in NSW and QLD.
In any case, it is the obvious choice, but for good reason. There is no better and clearer choice than to have the AFL Grand Final for 2020 at Perth’s Optus Stadium.