The debate of where the AFL Grand Final should be held comes around every year, but is tradition best when it comes to one of Australia’s biggest sporting events? (Image source: Fox Footy)
By Alexandra Bull | ally_bull19
For the second year in a row, the AFL Grand Final will be held away from its traditional home at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
With the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly escalating, the decision to hold the grand final at Optus Stadium in Perth was made at the end of August.
In 2020, it was held at The Gabba in Brisbane, due to a similar situation in Victoria this time last year.
The Western Bulldogs will be taking on minor premiers Melbourne, which is also the second year in the row that two Victorian teams have played each other, in the grand final away from the MCG.
However, there has always been a long-standing debate of the “ownership” of the Grand Final and why the MCG has the said “rights” to arguably one of the biggest sporting events of the year.
In 2019, Geelong coach Chris Scott labelled the AFL’s decision to make the MCG the host of the grand final for the next 40 years a “travesty”.
The AFL Grand Final has been played at the MCG every year since 1902, except on six occasions (soon to be seven) when the ground was not available.
As someone who has never had the privilege of attending an AFL Grand Final, I cannot vouch for what the experience is like.
However, I have been lucky enough to attend numerous AFL finals at Adelaide Oval in the past seven years and can say that it is something you do not get to experience every day.
While Port Adelaide may have lost their last two preliminary finals, to the devastation of fans like me, the atmosphere around the stadium was mesmerising. It could be replicated in a grand final, if one were ever to be held at Adelaide Oval.
Adelaide Oval is a word class oval, alongside Optus Stadium, and while one has the chance to host the biggest game of the year under unfortunate circumstances, Adelaide Oval should be able to have the chance one day too.
Having the grand final in other cities would give fans who ordinarily would not get the chance to attend the MCG an opportunity to attend and enjoy the game elsewhere.
But I do have to agree with the argument that the MCG is the home of the AFL Grand Final, and it appears to be an experience completely unique to the ground.
Adelaide Crows Fan Tim Bull attended a grand final at the MCG in 1998 and said that the experience was “electrifying”.
“There is nothing like it really, being able to see your team play – and win – is an experience I will never forget,” he said.
Tim also attended the 2017 preliminary final at Adelaide Oval, which saw the Adelaide Crows make their first grand final since 1998.
“Being able to watch your team play in front of essentially 50,000 home fans was fantastic.”
“The energy was incredible, and it does show that Adelaide Oval is able to host these large sporting events to a great standard,” Tim said.
However, he is on the side of the debate that the grand final should stay at the MCG, saying that he values the tradition of always having the game in one spot.
“Having it at the MCG makes it a little bit more special, you know?”
No Tim, I do not know because my team has not played in a grand final since that infamous day in 2007.
This year though, the grand final will be played at Optus Stadium, which has shown it is capable of holding world class events.
In June this year, the stadium had the privilege of hosting the Dream Time match between Essendon and Richmond, which proved to be a roaring success.
Selling out 60,000 seats to a crowd of non-Victorian supporters, with two Victorian teams is a massive feat, and they have done it again with the grand final this weekend.
Wherever the grand final is held, it is always a spectacle, but this debate is one that is not going away anytime soon.