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Sport Why AFL's night Grand Final is here to stay

01:51  28 october  2020
01:51  28 october  2020 Source:   wwos.nine.com.au

Tickets for AFL Grand Final at the Gabba sell out in 20 MINUTES

  Tickets for AFL Grand Final at the Gabba sell out in 20 MINUTES The historic clash between Richmond Tigers and Geelong Cats at the Gabba in Brisbane is set for Saturday night and has a crowd cap of 30,000 people.The historic clash between Richmond Tigers and Geelong Cats at the Gabba in Brisbane is set for Saturday night with the crowd capped at 30,000.

The AFL Grand Final is an annual Australian rules football match, staged to determine the premiers for that year' s Australian Football League ( AFL ) season.

A night grand final is the latest break from tradition. By national sport reporter David Mark. If staging the grand final outside of Melbourne for the first time wasn't enough of a break from tradition, the AFL doubled down by announcing another first: this year' s decider at the Gabba would be played at night .

Shane McInnes is an AFL commentator and sports broadcaster with 3AW, 6PR and Nine Radio. You can follow him on Twitter: @shanemcinnes

The curveball of the coronavirus pandemic forced the AFL's hand in many ways this season, with the league required to make changes to the game nobody could have foreseen back in February.

Traditionalists will say the game should now revert back to how it was back in 2019. That's not going to happen. Nor should it.

The AFL evolved in an unprecedented manner in 2020 and many aspects of that evolution should remain in 2021 and beyond. But, which aspects in particular?

a group of people posing for the camera: Richmond's Dustin Martin and Noah Balta celebrate after winning AFL's historic night Grand Final. © Getty Richmond's Dustin Martin and Noah Balta celebrate after winning AFL's historic night Grand Final.

THE FLOATING FIXTURE

Travis Auld deserved the Nobel Prize for fixturing in 2020, such were the complexities in putting together the season's fixture in four week blocks.

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The AFL grand final is headed to Brisbane in 2020, but there are still plenty of things to be sorted out — not least the start time, the crowd numbers and where Here are the key things you need to know. Posted WedWednesday 2 SepSeptember 2020 at 5:06pmWedWednesday 2 SepSeptember 2020 at

The AFL can play the grand final on the evening of Cox Plate day in Melbourne, October 24, or on the night of Derby day a week later, without risking the backlash that would have followed the breaking of tradition in a non-COVID world. It' s much easier to sell the night grand final when that ' s what both

However, the ability to re-design the fixture every few weeks ensured the best clubs and the best games were given the best time slots. At the start of the year, who would've ever thought the Gold Coast Suns would feature in prime-time on a Thursday night, or that St Kilda and the Giants would be a Friday night blockbuster?

Whilst we'll no doubt have more certainty about the fixture (ie. who's playing who each week) at the start of 2021, the certainty around timeslots should disappear. This season proved that the floating fixture model rewarded the broadcaster and fans alike with the best teams featuring in prime-time.

Announce the time slots four weeks in advance, to allow clubs to prepare and fans to travel. But surely the days of a dud or inconsequential match on a Thursday or Friday night are over.

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List manipulation is here to stay , so get used to it. 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.

Gabba confirmed for night AFL Grand Final . 31dAAP. Brisbane' s Gabba will host this year' s AFL Grand Final as the competition' s showpiece game leaves Victoria for the first time. Editor' s Picks. List manipulation is here to stay , so get used to it.

THURSDAY AND SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

Thursday nights have been creeping their way into the fixture more and more in recent years but in 2020, they became a regular event; one that will continue next season.

Not only does it provide the broadcasters with an additional slot, it kick-starts the weekend early for the ardent footy fan. And given attendance figures (pre-COVID) for Thursday nights, there's little argument to reduce the number next year.

The old Sunday twilight slot was effectively abolished this year in favour of a Sunday night game, ensuring no overlap across the three Sunday matches. It was a triple treat for footy fans and Fox Footy alike.

The argument against it is that the 6.10pm start time is too late. Well, it's not for the viewer at home.

And if the time slot is shared among clubs, then at most, fans will need to attend a Sunday night match once or twice during the season. And given many of the matches will fall into prime-time in Perth, expect the Eagles and Dockers to feature prominently in the final match of the weekend in 2021.

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AFL ' s night grand final a ratings winner. Round Table: Why aren't the Power being taken seriously? List manipulation is here to stay , so get used to it. 54dRohan Connolly. I used to think a night Grand Final was the way forward but not anymore.

The final medal is hung around the neck of Trent Cotchin. The Tigers skipper arrives on the dais with his two children, handing the youngest to Jack Riewoldt to allow him to perform his media duties. Cotchin was one of a number of Richmond players celebrating with their children, a reflection of the

a person holding a football ball: Josh Kennedy takes a mark in the West Coast vs Collingwood elimination final at Optus Stadium. © Getty Josh Kennedy takes a mark in the West Coast vs Collingwood elimination final at Optus Stadium.

SHORTER QUARTERS

As a precaution, the AFL shortened this season's quarter length to 16 minutes plus time-on. It was a precautionary move that paid off when the league pushed through matches in quick succession late in the season.

Whilst the quarter length took some adjusting too, the overall shorter game time has won over many stakeholders and the likelihood of returning 20 minute quarters appears slim at best.

Eighteen minutes plus time-on seems to be an accepted compromise for 2021 and given prior to this season quarters could often push 32 or 33 minutes, it's probably the right result.

FOUR AND FIVE-DAY BREAKS

Traditionally, the AFL Players Association has scoffed at anything less than a six-day break for its members. But 2020 has shown that with shortened quarters, players and teams are more than amenable to fewer days off between matches.

As a result, players should expect multiple shorter breaks in 2020; especially, if as predicted, the AFL looks to continue with a flexible fixture.

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Picture: AFL Photos. THE AFL ' s first night Grand Final will start at 6.30pm AEST (7.30pm AEDT). "Historically a really special part of Grand Final day is the build-up and anticipation, and we want to ensure we can share the electricity and atmosphere of the night with as many people as possible

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Sometimes, a team might get back-to-back eight-day breaks, other times it might be back-to-back four-day breaks. At the end of the day, the best teams will always prevail.

DAY-OF-GAME TRAVEL

The AFL has always advocated for teams to fly out the day before a match. But to avoid hotels and minimise contact, 'day-of-game' travel was permitted this year and worked flawlessly.

In a normal season, it would provide players with a more structured routine, more time at home and less time spent twiddling their thumbs on the road.

There may be times where it's beneficial for clubs to fly out earlier but the ultimate decision should rest with the team, as opposed to a mandated travel schedule from the AFL.

a man standing in front of a crowd: Richmond's Jack Riewoldt celebrates a goal during the Tigers' Grand Final win at the Gabba. © Getty Richmond's Jack Riewoldt celebrates a goal during the Tigers' Grand Final win at the Gabba.

THE END OF THE DAY GRAND FINAL

It was the AFL's most controversial decision this year: a night Grand Final for the first time in the game's history. The problem for the doubters is that it worked.

Never has there been a spectacle for a Grand Final like we saw at the Gabba on Saturday night. The lights. The fireworks. The music. It took Australia's top sporting event into another stratosphere and the ratings proved it.

Some will argue, 'It's not an event, it's a game'. Absolute nonsense. It's the grandest sporting event in Australia, featuring the biggest game of the season.

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That's not to say a twilight start is out of the question in the future but Saturday night showed it's imperative for half-time to fall after dusk. A 5pm start with a 7.30pm finish would be ideal.

There's still plenty of time to celebrate after the final siren. The half-time show can be a spectacle to rival that of events around the world. And the timeslot falls into prime-time, to maximise the audience around the country.

Saturday night was too good a spectacle and rated too well for the match to start at 2.30pm next year.

a group of people around each other: Wolfmother perform during the Gabba's historic night time AFL Grand Final. © Getty Wolfmother perform during the Gabba's historic night time AFL Grand Final.

Whilst there are positives to take out of 2020 … there are also aspects of the season that should never be spoken about again.

17-GAME SEASON

Yes, it brought about more equality by every team playing each other once. But start a 17-game season in March and the season will only just make it to August.

There's too much investment in the game to reduce the season by 45 matches (the amount it was reduced in 2020).

If anything, expect the AFL to go the other way and elongate the season to give broadcasters more bang for their buck and in turn, ensure any reduction in player payments is minimised.

FOOTY FESTIVAL

I love my footy and with everyone locked down in Melbourne, AFL matches every night was a welcome distraction in 2020. But it's not required as an annual event.

Thursday to Sunday ensures four days of football a week and that's surely enough even for the most ardent fan.

As with anything, you need to leave people wanting more. The footy festival failed to do that.

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a man with a football ball: Richmond's Kamdyn McIntosh and Geelong's Sam Menegola clash during the AFL Grand Final. © Getty Richmond's Kamdyn McIntosh and Geelong's Sam Menegola clash during the AFL Grand Final.

LONGER BREAKS AT QUARTER, THREE-QUARTER TIME

In theory, you would think this is something players would have appreciated - a longer rest between quarters.

However, more often than not, players were ready to resume before the umpires and thus, were left standing around almost forced to have a chat with their opponent.

A return to five-minute breaks in 2021 should more than suffice for teams, players and broadcasters alike. Keep the game moving!

GABBA GRAND FINAL

It was out of necessity that for the first time in VFL/AFL history, the Grand Final was moved to the Gabba in Brisbane. And to Queensland's credit, the Grand Final was a resounding success and may well provide the blueprint for future years.

However, it was a one-off and a one-off only.

So, to the people of Perth and Adelaide who think their time has come to also host a Grand Final, forget about it. It ain't ever going to happen.

Thank you to the Gabba for filling in - but it's only right the Grand Final return to its spiritual home from 2021 and remain there forevermore.

Gary Ablett, Jr., Jed Bews watching a football ball: Geelong great Gary Ablett makes his emotional exit from the Grand Final, his last game. © Getty Geelong great Gary Ablett makes his emotional exit from the Grand Final, his last game.

Be it a flexible fixture, shorter breaks between games or a night Grand Final, 2020 proved to the AFL that ideas previously scoffed at and dismissed were actually workable and achievable.

Tradition is great and remains an important part of our game but the future and what it holds for footy is just as exciting.

I for one am already counting down to round one, 2021.

AFL star Dustin Martin partied shirtless after Grand Final victory .
On Saturday night, the star midfielder celebrated his team's third Grand Final win in four years at the team hotel on the Gold Coast.And it looks like the 29-year-old hasn't mellowed out in the 12 months since.

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