SA football legend Neil Kerley has demanded the state government get “off their backside” and fight hard to secure the AFL grand final, calling it a great opportunity.
State government officials are developing an official proposal to hold the game at Adelaide Oval this year, if it cannot be at the MCG due to Victoria’s coronavirus crisis.
Queensland is the frontrunner to stage the match, which has always been in Melbourne, because it has saved the season by hosting hubs.
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Perth’s Optus Stadium is considered next in line with its capacity of 60,000, although that will be cut to 30,000 until October 24 – one of two proposed grand final dates, along with October 17 – due to WA’s latest COVID-19 restrictions.
With SA well placed due to its exemplary health record and Sports Minister Corey Wingard this month declaring “we’re in this”, Kerley and fellow state greats John Platten and Tony Modra told News Corp Australia that Adelaide Oval should be in the mix for the decider.
Kerley, who has won three SANFL premierships Adelaide Oval and has a bar named in his honour in the ground’s Riverbank Stand, could not believe it had taken the State Government so long to formally make its case.
“We’ve known now for quite some time it probably won’t be held at the MCG, so I can’t understand why the people here that are in a position to fight hard for this contract haven’t got off their backside and done something about it,” Kerley, an Australian Football Hall of Famer, said.
“It’s a great opportunity for the South Australian football hierarchy to get their teeth into it, get hold of the right people and really put in a strong bid to host it.
“(Hosting the grand final) would be a hell of a lift for football in this state … and they’ve got nothing to lose by trying to get it.
“If we could become the first state apart from Victoria to host the grand final, gee whiz, that would be a hell of a plus.”
The AFL continues to say publicly that the grand final will be at the MCG, which has a contract to host the event until 2057, and is expected to make an official decision on the game’s location by the end of the month.
“The Victorian people have got to realise it won’t be at the MCG so they’ve got to take second best for the first time ever,” Kerley said.
“There are a lot of things about football the Victorians take for granted and think belongs to them, which is bulls***, in my opinion – it should be shared to the various things.”
Kerley rated Adelaide Oval the equal second-best ground in the league with Optus Stadium, behind the MCG.
He said hosting the grand final in SA would be even better if ladder-leading Port Adelaide was in it.
“Adelaide Oval would be a great spectacle and a good test for our people to see if they could run it,” he said.
The last grand final that was not at the MCG was at Waverley Park in 1991, when the Great Southern Stand was under construction.
Hawthorn and Central District champion Platten played in that match and he hoped SA would get a chance if the game hit the road again.
“It’ll be great to showcase Adelaide Oval and one of the most spectacular grounds going around in the world,” said Platten, the 1987 Brownlow Medallist and 1984 Magarey winner.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re playing at Elizabeth Football Club in front of 2000 people, it’s a grand final – they’ll play in any part of Australia to play in a grand final.”
Modra, the Crows’ all-time leading goalkicker, expected Queensland to be awarded the match “but would love for it to be in Adelaide”.
“It’d be once-in-a-lifetime,” Modra said.
“It’s a great time to show off the rest of Australia as far as the AFL grand final goes and seeing what they can offer.
“With the city, the accommodation, how picturesque it is, we love our city and there’d be no drama selling it out.
“I think we beat Perth … because with travel, the less they fly the better and Adelaide is a lot closer than Perth, so I think it’s going to be between us and Queensland.”
A spokeswoman for Wingard said the government was developing a proposal in line with an AFL request and the state was well placed to host finals.
WA makes call on Grand Final crowd
A Grand Final staged at Perth Stadium would be restricted to a half-capacity crowd under Western Australia’s extended COVID-19 restrictions.
WA Premier Mark McGowan on Tuesday extended the state’s Phase 4 restrictions until October 24, meaning a maximum of 30,000 people is permitted at Perth Stadium for any event.
Depending on whether the league opts to implement a pre-finals bye for competing teams, the Grand Final could fall on October 17 or 24, with a determination on both a planned date and location expected by the end of the month.
But McGowan — who said he had no knowledge of reports that the state had offered the AFL $35 million to host the match — was adamant he would not budge on the measure and that the premiership decider was “not our main priority”.
“I don’t know what date the Grand Final is scheduled for, I’m not sure they know exactly what date it is,” he said.
“But clearly our advice is to keep Phase 4 in place for two months. And that means up until that date, we expect that we will have the current restrictions at Optus Stadium remain in place.
“Look, the truth of the matter is, that the Grand Final is one of those things that I get asked a lot about, particularly at press conferences.
“But it’s not our main priority. It’s not our main focus. Keeping people safe, getting our economy back up is our main focus.”
He said that if the league was to opt to stage the decider in Perth “in a COVID-safe way”, it would “have to abide” by the 30,000 cap on the crowd.
The Gabba is understood to be the current frontrunner to host the game should the league make the call to move it away from the MCG, with the Brisbane stadium likely restricted to a capacity of less than 20,000 people.
“I understand (Perth) would still be the biggest stadium and the biggest crowd in Australia, so it’s not like they would have lost anything,” McGowan said.
“But the reality is, we’ve got big issues to worry about. The Grand Final is not one of them.”
BROWNLOW COULD BE VIRTUAL EVENT
The AFL will consider all options for a Queensland Brownlow Medal – including the drastic option of a virtual event – as it safeguards its finals series from coronavirus.
The Herald Sun understands the league’s working group will report back on options by the end of next week for an event likely to be held in the days after Round 18.
That timeslot would allow the league to hold the event with the majority of its players in attendance, having just finished the home-and-away season in Queensland.
But there are biosecurity risks with holding a function for hundreds of players given the AFL would need to guarantee a clean event that didn’t expose players and potentially partners to the risk of coronavirus.
There are club fears around putting players who have been in strict quarantine and high performance hubs in a venue with catering and security staff in attendance.
The league would have to be confident a waiter or security guard had no chance of passing on the virus to a group that would literally be the AFL’s best and brightest players, some about to play finals.
The AFLW best-and-fairest in April was awarded to Carlton’s Madison Prespakis after the league streamed its award on video platform.
That is one option for the AFL if it cannot guarantee its biosecurity protocols have been as tight as they have in recent months.
Queensland continues to boast extremely low COVID positives but the league’s determination to avoid risks that could derail the season will intensify on the eve of the finals.
The league will have to be confident the risk is close to zero to hold an event, which would include social distancing and only a small group of players in attendance.
Whether the AFL would invite wives and girlfriends who have been in quarantine hubs is another consideration given the red carpet has become a significant part of the night.
The league will also have to consider the future of a range of awards nights including its MVP, All Australian and Rising Star awards.
Brownlow Medal winner Shane Crawford has backed the event to be held on the Gold Coast after he won the 1999 Brownlow Medal when the ceremony was held in Sydney.
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said recently the state would love to host the award, which has only moved outside of Melbourne once in its 97-year history.
“Of course I would love to see the Brownlow Medal here in the Sunshine State,” Palaszczuk said.
“Queensland would be the perfect place for the glitz and the glamour of the Brownlow and it makes sense if we’re going to be the temporary home for the AFL.”
PREMIER’S VICTORIAN RALLY CALL FOR GRAND FINAL LOCATION
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has called on Victorians to rally behind Queensland as the destination of choice for the AFL Grand Final.
The league is set to make a call on where the decider will be played at the end of this month, with the chances of the MCG – the traditional and contracted home of the game – hosting the match deemed incredibly slim due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis in Victoria.
Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Perth have all expressed a desire to host the game, which could be staged outside of Victoria for the first time in the history of the VFL/AFL.
Palaszczuk said that the sunshine state would be ready if required, but was waiting for the league to make its call.
“But we are having some close talks behind the scenes,” she said on Monday morning.
“We’re going to work very closely behind the scenes.
“And if the decision is made for it not to be held in Melbourne, Queensland has hosted the bulk of the competition and I would hope that people living in Victoria would also support Queensland.”
Palaszczuk would not be drawn on how much money could be involved, and said “we’re not at that stage at the moment”.
“Like I said, we need the AFL to make their decision,” she said.
“This is a very tough decision, because let’s face it – it has never left Victoria. But Queensland does stand ready, willing and able to host if it is unable to be hosted in Victoria.”
If the season continues without a pre-finals bye, the game is slated to be played on October 17.
South Australia continues to push its cause for hosting AFL finals, including the season decider.
“The South Australian Government is developing an official proposal in line with the AFL’s request,” an SA government spokesperson:
“South Australia is well placed to hold finals given our exemplary health record and the facilities we have on offer at Adelaide Oval.
League boss Gillon McLachlan has been open that he would not intend to go head-to-head with the Caulfield Cup, or the 150th Cox Plate the following week if the bye was implemented.
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said on Friday that it was still too soon to make a call on moving the game away from the MCG, and said the state government and sports Minister Martin Pakula were engaged in conversation with the league.
“We’ve got a contract in place so we would seek to add a year at the end of that contract if the event can’t occur here,” he said.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that it does, but it is a long way off.”
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