It took a pandemic to pry the AFL grand final from Melbourne.
The national game’s decider was set to be held at the MCG until 2057, but the second wave of coronavirus in Victoria made it unfeasible for any AFL games to be played in the state, much less the showpiece event of the 2020 season.
Last week we found out the when — October 24 — and this week we’ll find out the all-important where.
Here’s what we know so far.
When will the AFL announce the grand final host?
We don’t know.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan is flying up to the hub on Queensland’s Gold Coast to have a meeting with other senior executives.
The meeting is set for today — with options in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales all on the table — so a decision should not be far away.
Who’s the favourite to host?
The Gabba in Brisbane emerged as a front-runner to host the grand final thanks to low case numbers in Queensland and, arguably more influential, a state government that was nice to the AFL.
Late October in Brisbane would no doubt make for a sweaty day for players and a sticky spectacle for those sitting inside a concrete bowl in Woolloongabba.
But Queensland’s Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was never shy about saying she was keen to bring the game north.
“Queensland does stand ready, willing and able to host if it is unable to be hosted in Victoria,” she said in mid-August.
“Queensland has hosted the bulk of the competition and I would think people living in Victoria would also support Queensland.”
Doesn’t Perth have a new stadium?
Yes, but there are other factors at play.
Whereas Ms Palaszczuk has been eager, Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan until recently brushed off questions about hosting a sporting event in the face of the deadly virus.
“[The] reality is we’ve got big issues to worry about. The grand final is not one of them,” he said just as Ms Palaszczuk was making her comments.
Mr McGowan’s single-minded focus on public health might have put a bad taste in the mouth of the AFL, but it has not completely killed that state’s chances.
Last week, Mr McGowan said the AFL had asked how many people would be allowed at the game if it was hosted out west.
With WA set to move to more-relaxed restrictions on the day of the grand final, there is potential for a capacity 60,000-strong crowd. If there is another delay, that would still allow a restricted half-full stadium of 30,000.
In a best-case scenario, Brisbane would be looking at a maximum crowd of around 30,000 — far from the 100,000-plus usually at an MCG decider.
And while the Gabba is ageing, Perth Stadium is a brand new facility that has won an international architecture award.
The state also has even lower coronavirus case numbers than Queensland and no community transmission — but Mr McGowan wants to keep it that way, meaning teams coming to WA would likely have to quarantine for 14 days.
Who else is in the running?
South Australia and NSW pitched the league on their respective states on Thursday.
Similar to Perth Stadium, Adelaide Oval has proven itself a world-class venue, particularly at twilight.
It has provided a stunning atmosphere for bumper AFL clashes like the Showdown between Adelaide and Port Adelaide.
Meanwhile, there are also thousands of fans going to football games in New South Wales at the moment, but the Olympic Stadium in Sydney is far from beloved by the AFL and NSW’s case numbers are problematic.