Broadcasting great Bruce McAvaney will be the centrepiece of Channel Seven’s blockbuster Grand Final day coverage, calling the game from the Gabba as well as having a big presence in the station’s Cox Plate coverage earlier in the day.

On the same day the AFL announced a 7.30pm starting time for a historic night Grand Final on October 24, the game’s free-to-air broadcaster confirmed McAvaney would travel from his South Australian base to cover the game.

And Channel Seven is also looking at ways to get McAvaney’s calling partner Brian Taylor into Queensland for the season’s business end.

Asked if McAvaney would be at the Gabba, Seven Melbourne managing director Lewis Martin said: “Yes … Bruce can get in because he is from South Australia.”

“Don’t worry, Bruce is going to be living the dream – with a Cox Plate and the Grand Final on the same day.

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Bruce McAvaney will have a major presence for both the Grand Final and Cox Plate. Picture: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
media_cameraBruce McAvaney will have a major presence for both the Grand Final and Cox Plate. Picture: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

“We are in the process of getting Brian up (to Queensland) and how we work through that outcome, along with our broadcast team.”

McAvaney will be a part of the station’s coverage of the 100th Cox Plate – albeit remotely – with the race to be run at 4.15pm before switching into football mode. He has been calling games remotely from South Australia.

Martin said Channel 7 would be “ready to go for the Grand Final, don’t worry about that.”

“We’ve been working through this extraordinary season one match at a time and now we can turn our focus to the finals.

“We are not losing sight of the task still in front of us. We have got a team that will start to dedicate their time to the finals series and the Grand Final.

“But I am still taking it one hour at a time.”

Possible pregame and half-time entertainment slots added a new dimension, with Martin saying: “It is Queensland, it is Tony Cochrane and it will be different.”

He couldn’t be more thankful for the hard work of his on-air and off-air team as well as the cooperation of the AFL, the clubs, the players and the viewers.

GRAND FINAL, COX PLATE TIMES LOCKED IN

The AFL Grand Final will be a pure night experience with the league to hold the 2020 contest at 7.30pm Melbourne time.

The AFL’s test case for night football for its biggest contest could potentially be such a ratings success that the league never again returns to an afternoon contest for the Grand Final.

This year the league has given host broadcaster Channel 7 the biggest possible chance to maximise that crowd given a 6.30pm starting time in Queensland for a 7.30pm start with daylight savings in Melbourne and Sydney.

The Herald Sun revealed last month the Queensland bid had pushed for a 7pm start time, but the league will push back the game to 7.30pm to maximise audiences.

Richmond players celebrate during their 2019 Grand Final win. Picture: Phil Hillyard
media_cameraRichmond players celebrate during their 2019 Grand Final win. Picture: Phil Hillyard

Seven will be hosting racing’s Cox Plate on the afternoon of October 24 and then have a full hour lead-in after that night’s news.

Moonee Valley Racing Club CEO Michael Browell confirmed the Cox Plate would be held at 4.15pm in Melbourne.

“With the announcement that the 2020 AFL Grand Final will be held at 7.30 pm (AEDT), we will now work closely with our broadcast partner Channel 7 to deliver a spectacular coverage of an incredible and historic day in Australian sport,” he said.

Promoter Michael Gudinski is working with the AFL on producing the best possible live entertainment of local artists, given COVID-19 pandemic has ruled out international acts.

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire welcomed the call for a night Grand Final, saying it was the only way ahead if the AFL wanted to maximise ratings.

“If we want the AFL Grand Final to be the No.1 rating show of the year, you put it on in prime time, not when they are playing the Tarzan movies (on a Saturday afternoon),” McGuire said.

“There will certainly be an opportunity for the ratings to go through the roof.”

Queensland bid leader Tony Cochrane believes the league might have as many as six million viewers for the contest.

Brisbane triple premiership legend Alastair Lynch told the Herald Sun it would still be a spectacular contest even if the dew that has plagued many evening games in Queensland will be present.

He has covered almost every Gabba game this year, hopeful his Lions will make it to the only Grand Final ever held outside Victoria.

Michael Browell holds the trophy that will be awarded to the winner of the 2020 Cox Plate. Picture: Nicki Connolly
media_cameraMichael Browell holds the trophy that will be awarded to the winner of the 2020 Cox Plate. Picture: Nicki Connolly

“It’s been pretty dewy and there have also been a couple of nights where its been reasonably well and the grass at the Gabba is reasonably long so it can get a bit wet at times but

“It won’t detract from the spectacle. The players know what to expect and they will be prepared for some dew. The Gabba is the best it has looked for 20 years. Speaking to the curators it’s because they haven’t had the training loads which wear one particular surface so it’s looking amazing.”

AFL fixture boss Travis Auld said the game would ensure young fans could still watch the game while maximising ratings.

“When making the decision we had to factor in daylight savings times in parts of the country, along with ensuring we and our broadcast partner, the Seven Network, had sufficient time leading into the opening bounce.” Mr Auld said.

“We were also cognisant of finishing the match at a suitable time for younger footy fans. The shortened game times this season should see the final siren blown and the 2020 Premier officially crowned just before 10:00pm 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 around the country.

“A night grand final is sure to be a fantastic spectacle for both the fans in stadium and the millions watching around the country and overseas.”

The 2019 Grand Final had underwhelming figures as Richmond quickly blew away an underwhelming Greater Western Sydney, drawing 2.2 million viewers for the five-city metro figure.

It was down on 2018 (2.62m) and 2017 (2.68m) as the lowest figure since the current ratings system began.

The league and Seven would have been worried about a 7.10pm start and a potential one-sided game dropping audiences quickly in what are shortened contests this year.

A 7.30pm start gives Seven strong lead-in figures and the chance to retain them all the way through prime time.

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Originally published as Who will be GF commentary centrepiece?

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