AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has responded to suggestions that Sydney’s ANZ Stadium would be the best place to play the 2020 grand final, with Melbourne fighting off its most dire period since the COVID-19 pandemic first started.
Speaking on 3AW morning radio, McLachlan said the ever-changing scenario made planning for the premiership decider difficult, but confirmed that Melbourne’s MCG was still the first choice.
“We’re planning on playing [there]. I get the context, it’s just, it’s still a long way out and things are changing so fast, and that’s where we’re playing until we’re not, so it’s a bit of a non-answer,” McLachlan said.
As he helps the league navigate the ongoing challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, McLachlan also revealed he is battling cold-like symptoms himself and has been self-isolating. He said he was considering taking a COVID-19 test.
“I’ve had a number of them (tests). I’ve been locked in my room and probably thinking about having another one. I had one a couple of weeks ago,” he said
“I’ve been locked in a room since I was feeling average yesterday, so I’ve been avoiding [my kids], but it’s getting increasingly hard.”
Yesterday ARLC chairman Peter V’landys had a cheeky barb for the rival code, saying an AFL grand final in Sydney would be a “second-rate event”, but a good lead-in to the NRL grand final.
McLachlan simply couldn’t say with confidence where the grand final would take place yet, and though Melbourne was still the top option, he left the door open for an interstate host.
“We have’t gotten to that. Everything keeps changing, and it sounds like you’re avoiding the question but it is real though – you don’t know where we’re going to be,” he said.
“We have a great venue. You know, on the basis of a hypothetical, I’ve said everything about the MCG being our home, but if it wasn’t, then obviously there’s great venues in every state and great footy markets, developing markets, and in South Australia and WA.”
AFL Grand Final likely to head interstate
The AFL boss said the final decision on where the grand final will take place will not be known until at least next month, if not later.
“It’ll be something I reckon we’ll make a decision on in August, some time when we know more,” McLachlan said.
“We’re playing our shots pretty late because you don’t know what’s changing on a day by day basis. I’d say August, late August, but it may be later than that because things keep moving and you need the best information to make those decisions.
“I know that’ll be a big discussion point, but we’ll be making that as late as we can.”
The AFL, and McLachlan, have been praised for their quick-thinking in moving teams north before the lockdown and border shutdown was enacted in Victoria this week. The CEO denied that they had any advance word about the impending lockdown after a spike in COVID-19 cases.
“I didn’t have the specific information. I saw things changing and I got the best information we could,” McLachlan said.
How QLD hubs could hurt Victorian clubs
“There was concerns and we made a percentage decision based on the information we had. We didn’t know it was going to be a lockdown on Monday clearly when we made those decisions, and that’s why it was a bit of a challenge for the clubs and we had to get a bit assertive.
“We thought the percentage play given where things were going was to make that call and we had to make adjustments to fixtures, and obviously clubs went up and re-calibrated who was going.
“So that was a lot of work done by our team and the clubs over the weekend.”
While some players, most notably Jack Riewoldt, have been critical of their “shoebox” accommodations up north, McLachlan said he has heard the exact opposite.
“I don’t know what Jack Riewoldt’s saying but everyone I’ve spoken to directly and the vast majority of the players, they think it’s amazing,” he said.
“I’ve gotten great feedback from the clubs.
“Speaking to the WA and Adelaide clubs, they’re in a great rhythm and having a great time.”
Coronavirus: Victorian AFL clubs to move interstate
As for suggestions of seven games in 32 days, McLachlan said the AFL were indeed looking at fitting in more games, but there was more planning to be done.
“It’s a hypothetical. We continue to work with the changing environments and government and health officials on what is possible and we are still working on the fixture options,” he said.
“So can we compress it? We’re working on it. Clearly player availability and stress on players is a part of that and things have moved again in Queensland in the last 24 hours, so some clubs will be running with skinnier lists, so that will be part of the mix.”