Richmond triple-premiership star Jack Riewoldt is among a host of high-profile AFL figures giving the thumbs down to the late grand final time slot, despite it proving to be a television ratings winner.
Host broadcaster Seven reported an average national audience of 3.812 million, which it said was 30 per cent up on last year and the biggest grand final audience since 2016.
It came after AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan finally got his wish to see a season decider played under lights, with the traditional 2.30pm time slot pushed back to 7.30pm AEDT.
The decision was cause for heated debate amongst football supporters after being announced in September, and the future of the start time is yet to be determined.
“I probably would prefer a day grand final, to be honest,” Riewoldt said after the match.
“In saying that though, the conditions were s***house during the day today, so we didn’t mind playing at night later on.
“It’s a completely different spectacle, and great that I’ve experienced both, but I’m really not fussed too much.”
The Gabba produced a spectacular setting at night, with a lighting show and fireworks part of the pre-match and halftime entertainment as well as the post-match celebrations.
But Riewoldt said the traditional afternoon slot was preferable because players and fans did not have to wait as long for the action to get underway.
He joked that many supporters were “half-cut” by the time they arrived at the Gabba for the bounce down at 6.30pm local time.
“The game’s growing and evolving and this year’s obviously been a different one, but we’ve been able to trial some stuff going forward,” Riewoldt said.
“Whilst it’s been financially difficult for the AFL I think there’s some really positive lessons that have been learnt over the last six months.”
Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale thought the night time slot was “pretty good”, pointing to the television ratings as a key factor to be considered in future decisions around the grand final start time.
“It felt like a grand final,” Gale said.
“As a code we have a responsibility to take the game to as many eyeballs as possible and, gee, there would have been a lot watching tonight at three-quarter time.
“But at the end of the day they could play at 6am, I don’t care.”
Collingwood’s 1990 premiership captain Tony Shaw is one of many traditionalists who are not supportive of the late start.
“It doesn’t gel with me,” Shaw said on 3AW radio.
“This day should come to an end early so we can then all celebrate.
“Finishing the game at 10.30(pm) – I wouldn’t want to do it as a player.”