A plane load of AFL bosses and a wider caravan of league and club executives and football figures, including Geelong champion Gary Ablett and Richmond premiership star Shane Edwards, headed to Queensland on Tuesday to the hubs where nearly every team is now based.
The decision to host the game in Queensland has long been expected and it will not come as a surprise the AFL has chosen the expansion market as the location for its biggest game.
There was a sense from the AFL of rewarding the state for helping save the season from the COVID-19 lockdowns that stopped games being played in Victoria, but there was also a sense of seeking to exploit a rare opportunity to push the game in the expanding Queensland market where the AFL has already made a significant financial investment.
The decision will, regardless, be a great disappointment to both Western Australia and South Australia, with both feeling they had strong and persuasive claims to host the game in their football-proud states which both feature strong premiership contenders.
Football figures in both of those states also claimed the idea that staging the grand final in Queensland would have an impact on the game’s growth and foothold in the market was nebulous. They pointed to the relatively small crowds at many of the games being held there now.
Finals are still expected to be held in South Australia, though the two-week quarantine requirement for teams to play in Western Australia will cause problems for the scheduling of finals there and was always a difficult hurdle to clear in the argument for Perth to host the decider.
The timing of the game on October 24 allows for the fact that the AFL has also agreed, as reported, that there would still be a pre-finals bye this year despite the fact that so much of the season has been compacted and that teams that have been in hubs for lengthy periods already would be asked to spend an extra week in the hub.