OPINION

Fans ignored in AFL's move to a night grand final

This year's AFL grand final will be held at night rather than its traditional afternoon timeslot. Photo: Jono Searle/AFL Photos/Getty Images
This year's AFL grand final will be held at night rather than its traditional afternoon timeslot. Photo: Jono Searle/AFL Photos/Getty Images

The AFL will use this season's evening grand final fixture as a trial run for the future

The AFL has got its way and this year's grand final will be held at night - so much for the league's oft-stated commitment to listen to its fan base.

Despite numerous surveys over the years showing an overwhelming desire for the season's showpiece game to stay in the afternoon timeslot, the AFL will use this year's grand final at the Gabba as a trial run for the future.

The AFL will justify the change by pointing to the improved entertainment package at night and prime-time TV ratings.

The spin will ignore the fact that locked-down Victorians won't be able to attend, adding tens of thousands to the viewing audience.

No doubt the game under lights will be a great spectacle and a logical choice rather than the likelihood of playing in hot, humid conditions under a blazing Queensland sun, but importantly will the product suffer?

It is true most finals are played at night these days, but footy in the afternoon generally provides a better environment for an exhibition of the game's skills.

And isn't that why people go to the grand final - or is enjoying the entertainment the prime motivation?

I know why I attend - to see the best teams compete for the ultimate prize.

If there has to be a change to appease the broadcasters with shrinking revenues, the best compromise would be a twilight game.

But I'm a traditionalist and believe the grand final should be played during the day for several reasons.

The breakfast/brunches followed by barbecues around the streets and suburbs in all parts of the country foster a carnival atmosphere in the build-up.

A night grand final is likely to create headaches in more ways than one with many people consuming alcohol from early in the day until game-time and the social problems that would cause.

Ask Victoria Police about its preferred starting time when the grand final returns to its rightful home at the MCG and it wouldn't be at night.

The night timeslot will be less family-friendly, making it harder for young children and older people to watch.

Not every major sporting event is held at night - the Melbourne Cup and the finals of the world's premier tennis tournament, Wimbledon, are huge successes during the day.

Cocky Tigers could pay a heavy price

Richmond's Callum Coleman-Jones (pictured) and teammate Sydney Stack have been sent home after breaching strict COVID-19 protocols. Photo: Graham Denholm/Getty Images

Richmond's Callum Coleman-Jones (pictured) and teammate Sydney Stack have been sent home after breaching strict COVID-19 protocols. Photo: Graham Denholm/Getty Images

Richmond's hubris threatens to derail its 2020 campaign with a litany of incidents off the field underlining the Tigers' cocky attitude.

Richmond has been lauded for its achievements and selfless approach in the past three seasons in winning two flags and another premiership this year would be the crowning glory on a magnificent era, but the warning signs of a club getting ahead of itself have been too numerous to ignore.

The latest in a long list of mishaps and indiscretions came last week when Callum Coleman-Jones and Sydney Stack committed the Tigers' second breach of the AFL's strict COVID-19 protocols, just over a month after Brooke Cotchin, the wife of club captain Trent, visited a day spa on the Gold Coast.

Coleman-Jones, 21, and Stack, 20, are old enough to know their irresponsible and selfish actions during a boozy night out in Surfers Paradise were wrong and could have had more severe repercussions for their club and the AFL.

Coleman-Jones and Stack deserved to be suspended and fined, but importantly the $100,000 penalty incurred by Richmond as a result of the pair's indiscretions should have come out of the Tigers' Total Player Payments for next season, not the soft cap which covers the club's football department spending.

Players' salaries should be affected by the penalty and an assistant coach or other staff should not be forced to lose their jobs.

Further incidents involving Richmond have included coach Damien Hardwick's verbal blasts at his Sydney counterpart John Longmire and former Melbourne key forward David Schwarz in media conferences, and the "unacceptable" groping of Mabior Chol by teammates Nick Vlastuin and Jayden Short as the Tigers sang the club song post-game.

Fourth-placed Richmond remains well placed to defend its title with the prospect of a raft of premiership stars including David Astbury, Dylan Grimes, Shane Edwards, Kane Lambert and Dion Prestia expected to return soon to bolster the team.

This Friday night's game against an in-form Geelong looms as crucial to the Tigers' top-four hopes and they will need to show their renowned resilience and put their off-field dramas behind them if they are to win their third premiership in four seasons.

Question of the week

Simon from Canberra, ACT, asks:How would genuine hard men from the 1970s and '80s such as Peter 'Crackers' Keenan and Ronnie Andrews have handled social media trolls and 'keyboard warriors' if they were playing today?

Great question, Simon.

While it is debatable if he fits your description of a genuine AFL/VFL hard man, I went straight to the source and asked Crackers.

His response: "I'll meet you at a park or outside Windy Hill near the brick named in my honour and we'll sort this out." Crackers often let his fists do the talking - just ask Don Scott or Rene Kink.

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.