OPINION

If the MCG is out, bring on a Gabba Grand Final

A general view of The Gabba ground during the round 7 AFL match between the Carlton Blues and Port Adelaide Power on Sunday, July 19. Could the Brisbane ground host the 2020 Grand Final if the MCG is ruled out? Photo: Jono Searle/Getty Images
A general view of The Gabba ground during the round 7 AFL match between the Carlton Blues and Port Adelaide Power on Sunday, July 19. Could the Brisbane ground host the 2020 Grand Final if the MCG is ruled out? Photo: Jono Searle/Getty Images

The AFL has its biggest chance to capture the hearts and minds of Queenslanders and it should take advantage of the unique opportunity.

If the Grand Final can't be played at a packed MCG, Queensland deserves to be the first state outside Victoria to host the event.

With Stage 3 restrictions and lockdown operating in Melbourne and surrounding districts as a result of COVID-19 until at least the middle of next month, it is unlikely any games will be played in Victoria for the remainder of the season.

As unpalatable as it is for Victorians, the Grand Final needs to be played in front of a full house regardless of the contractual arrangements with the MCC. The Gabba holds just under 40,000 and the cauldron-like stadium would provide a sensational atmosphere regardless of which teams were playing.

The venue has already hosted the match of the season when Port Adelaide retained top spot on the ladder with Robbie Gray's goal after the siren to sink Carlton on Sunday.

The Sunshine State has enabled the season to proceed by allowing the Victorian clubs to be based in hubs and play most of the games there.

There would be the predictable whinge and moan from traditional football states South Australia and Western Australia if they were overlooked.

Adelaide Oval and Optus Stadium are superb venues and hold more people than the Gabba, but the Queenslanders have been more accommodating in this time of crisis and should be rewarded.

Since 1987 when the League increased its national footprint with the inclusion of the Brisbane Bears and the West Coast Eagles, millions of dollars have been poured into the northern markets in NSW and Queensland to increase the game's popularity.

While Australian Football has made inroads at the grassroots, particularly on the back of the Brisbane Lions' triple premiership success in the early 2000s, rugby league still rules in Queensland.

For a decade, promoting AFL at the elite level was a tough assignment.

The Lions were in the bottom half of the ladder and the Suns have been a laughing stock since they entered the competition in 2011.

But the fortunes of the Queensland clubs are turning and the timing could be ideal for them and the AFL.

Under coach Chris Fagan, Brisbane made their first finals appearance in 10 years last season and are well placed to make another tilt this year.

The second-placed Lions confirmed their premiership credentials with an impressive win over last year's grand finalists Greater Western Sydney last Saturday.

They have a fine ruckman in Stefan Martin and their midfield is led by Brownlow Medal favourite Lachie Neale and skipper Dayne Zorko, supported by a group of hard workers including the Berry brothers Jarrod and Thomas, Jarryd Lyons, Hugh McCluggage and Mitch Robinson.

South along the Pacific Motorway, the Suns are finally getting their act together under coach Stuart Dew, who last week signed a two-year contract extension.

Gold Coast are well positioned to make their first finals appearance this season with the talented group of young players they have assembled in the past few years.

In this crazy season who knows but the AFL's dream might just come true - a Lions-Suns Grand Final at the Gabba.

De Goey key to Magpies' hopes

Jordan De Goey's match-winning display against Geelong underlined how important he is Collingwood's premiership hopes.

Collingwood's Jordan De Goey celebrates a goal during the match against Geelong at Optus Stadium, Perth, last Thursday, July 16. Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Collingwood's Jordan De Goey celebrates a goal during the match against Geelong at Optus Stadium, Perth, last Thursday, July 16. Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images

De Goey was at his explosive best last Thursday night, contributing five goals in a low-scoring contest, but the Magpies will be without the key playmaker for a while after he tore the flexor tendon in his right middle finger which required surgery.

The question facing Nathan Buckley and his coaching staff is where to play De Goey when he returns. Given the surfeit of midfielders at Collingwood's disposal, he is more valuable if he plays mainly in attack with an occasional burst in the middle.

That would give the Magpies much-needed bite up forward and provide the opposition defenders with plenty to worry about.

Recently much of the discussion surrounding De Goey has centred on his off-field problems and there are some who believe the Magpie should not have played against the Cats after being charged with indecent assault as a result of an alleged incident in 2015.

Collingwood's case is watertight - people are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law.

Our legal system was founded on this principle and should not be overridden by public perception or opinion, so De Goey should be allowed to train and play when available.

Readers' Question of the Week

Brendan Ryan, of Paddington, NSW, asks: Which rule change in the AFL era has had the greatest impact on how the game is played, for better or worse?

Great question, Brendan. I believe the increase of the interchange bench to three in 1994 and then to four in 1998 has contributed to many of the problems we see in today's game. Let's return to traditional values with 18 a side on the field, two on the bench and unlimited rotations - that way the game becomes a true test of players' physical and mental capabilities with the toughest coming out on top.

Email: howardkotton11@gmail.com

Twitter: @hpkotton59

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas
This story The Gabba and a full house deserves to see the grand final first appeared on The Canberra Times.