Where AFL legends think the Grand Final should be played
If you love something, set it free. Victorian footy fans must do the unthinkable and support shifting the 2020 AFL Grand Final interstate.
It'll be infinitely better for the Grand Final to be played in front of a big crowd at a lesser stadium, in a lesser city, than at an empty but magnificent Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Normally, as a proud Victorian, I'd react with righteous anger upon hearing any talk of shifting the Grand Final from its spiritual home, but we are living through an insane period in human history.
Crazy times call for crazy measures and though it feels unnatural and wrong on every level, one must acknowledge that this disease-ridden city is no place for the biggest annual spectacle in Australian sport.
The Grand Final deserves to be played in front of tens of thousands of fans and if that can't happen in Melbourne, then the AFL must ensure it happens in Queensland, NSW, Western Australia or even in the godforsaken badlands of South Australia.
Indeed, anywhere outside of Melbourne is a good option if we remain the unfortunate epicentre of the coronavirus crisis in Australia.
However, any move interstate must not be seen as a precedent; it should be considered a one-off in extraordinary times, with the full expectation that the premiership game will return to the 'G as soon as we are through the COVID-19 catastrophe.
Of course, my opinion on this matter is beyond reproach but I did reach out to several legends of the game for their take on the Grand Final conundrum and I'm happy to report that all, naturally, agreed with my sage judgment.
"A crowd interstate for the Grand Final is a better option than a no-crowd Grand Final at the MCG," said four-time premiership player, four-time premiership coach and the game's greatest ever player, Leigh Matthews.
St Kilda great and five-time All Australian Nick Riewoldt also believes that having as many fans in attendance as possible is critically important.
"I think the grand final has to go wherever we can get the greatest attendance regardless of venue," he said.
Premiership player and double Brownlow champion Chris Judd said: "If it can't be played in front of a crowd at the MCG, and crowds are available elsewhere, then I think it should be played elsewhere".
"I don't think they should lock it in elsewhere though, until they're superconfident a crowd will be possible there."
Western Bulldogs great and six-time All-Australian Brad Johnson agreed that the AFL should wait a few weeks before determining where the Grand Final is played but said it was critical that the game be held in front of a big crowd.
"The AFL will need four to five weeks at a minimum to have a venue set, given the logistics around holding a world class event," he said.
"Sydney will chase it, Queensland will definitely chase it, Adelaide will make a big play for it and so will Western Australia, the facilities at Adelaide Oval and Optus Stadium are unbelievable.
"We just want to play footy where it is safe.
"At the end of the day, the MCG is the home of football but for me it looks like the Grand Final is moving out of Victoria for one year.
"The fans are critical, I think if we can get to the point the AFL Grand Final is played in front of 60,000 plus fans that's the way to do it … an empty MCG just wouldn't be right come Grand Final day."
Hawthorn premiership player and Brownlow medallist Shane Crawford is also in favour of the Grand Final being played interstate if fans can attend and he's rooting for footy's new temporary home, Queensland.
"The Grand Final should be played with a crowd, Queensland is my pick since they have saved the AFL this year," Crawford said.
Geelong legend Sam Newman interrupted a game of golf on Wednesday afternoon to endorse an "interstate Grand Final in front of a crowd" instead of one at a deserted MCG.
However, as it stands, the AFL still plan to hold the Grand Final in Melbourne on October 17 even though all Victorian clubs will be based in Queensland for the rest of the season.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan will have to consider other options if Melbourne is still in lockdown and on Wednesday Victorian Sports Minister Martin Pakula made it clear the AFL could not hold the Grand Final on that Saturday afternoon due to a clash with the Caulfield Cup.
"If the AFL Grand Final happens to be on October 17, or on any of our feature race days, the AFL will work around racing - whether that means putting it on at night, or the Sunday - but it definitely will not go head-to-head with the race meeting," Pakula told RSN radio.
The Grand Final at a deserted MCG on a Saturday night is a depressing prospect.
Better to let Queensland or Western Australia take the game and give the spectacle the atmosphere it deserves.
WA has come out fighting, Wednesday's West Australian front page read 'Sure, let's give the grand final to NRL state' with the subheading "Queensland (home of rugby league and a B-grade stadium) may snatch AFL decider'.
Let the games begin.
The idea of stage four coronavirus restriction may be popular with some public servants, retirees and those on welfare but for most working Victorians it will be disastrous, and an example of the cure being worse than the disease.
Rita Panahi is a Herald Sun columnist
Originally published as Where AFL legends think the Grand Final should be played