The 2021 AFL Grand Final is over. After texting various friends and acquaintances who barrack for Melbourne to offer my congratulations this morning, I have untied the Bulldogs scarf from the corner post of my front porch and put it and the other Bulldogs fan gear in the laundry basket.
Next year, hopefully, the AFL Grand Final is back in Melbourne again, although there is little cause for optimism with the way the plague is continuing to affect our day to day lives.
Three and a half weeks ago, I suggested in this blog that it is time for the AFL to consider holding the AFL Grand Final once every five years outside Victoria. Yesterday, my suggestion was echoed by the Chairman of the Gold Coast Suns, whose voice, unlike mine, was then reported in the mainstream media.
After the enthusiastic celebrations held in Perth on Friday in honour of the two competing clubs (I did give my membership number to a friend of a friend who is in Perth and a fellow Bulldog, to help him in his quest for tickets for the non-Bulldogs supporters in his family to the big game), you cannot deny that any grand final held in any part of Australia will attract a joyous welcome, regardless of whether a local team is playing or not.
Australian Rules has successfully taken root as the national football code since the inauguration of the AFL era in 1990. Eight of the eighteen clubs are located outside Victoria, and five of those non-Victorian clubs have won, between them, 12 premierships over the course of 32 seasons, including the purple patch between 1997 and 2006, where eight of those premierships were won, including (for Victorians) the horror period of 2004-2006 where no Victorian teams were in the grand final.
The MCG is indisputably the greatest stadium in Australia. It rightly deserves, as the birthplace of Australian Rules and Test Cricket, to host the AFL Grand Final regularly. But we do have other options. Perth Stadium is definitely a worthy stadium to host grand finals, and Adelaide Oval itself would merit hosting rights occasionally. After the Gabba is rebuilt for the Olympics (especially if they listen to me and build it to a 60,000 seat capacity rather than 50,000), it too will be a worthy venue.
Obviously, for a national sport, AFL Grand Finals should be occasionally held in the largest city in the nation, Sydney. My one hesitation there is that I have doubts currently about both the SCG and Stadium Australia’s abilities to host decent matches there.
It’s now 40 years since the decision was made to send South Melbourne Football Club north up the Hume Highway, starting the journey to a national competition. The necessity born of crisis in the past two seasons to host major games outside of Melbourne has created the opportunity to further grow the popularity of true football across the nation. This should involve expanding the competition to include teams from Tasmania and representing a composite of the NT and FNQ, and to 25 home and away matches per year.
And it definitely should involve slaying the sacred cow of perpetual Grand Finals at the MCG. Giving one out of every five to the rest of the nation is not only fair, but it is sensible marketing.