But it’s only for this year, or at least all of Australia should hope. If it is still impossible to play the grand final at the MCG next year, that will be the least of the country’s worries. If it is possible, a contract makes it certain, next year and nearly 40 more after that.
Here’s some perspective while you’re waiting for your Zoom connection to finish buffering. If your beef is about Victorian sovereignty over footy, we’re like Ash McGrath, without much of a leg to stand on right now.
Besides, it’s the last war. It’s been formally a national competition for 30 years now, a national game long before that.
All this century, this day has been coming. As long ago as 2006, there was no game in Melbourne for the middle two weeks of the finals. We bumbled through. In 2015, both preliminary finals were Perth, and it was tolerably OK.
We’ve already had four grand finals between non-Victorian clubs, and the last eight have featured only one Victorian club at a time. Somewhat in breach of the spirit of founding a national competition, the non-Victorian clubs insist not only on belonging, but bobbing up, often.
Land rights were bound to follow. In those eight years, excluding the grand final which by contractual obligation had to be at the MCG, there have been more finals away from Melbourne than in Melbourne. Now there’ll be a whole lot more off-shored games, including the biggie. But – say it loudly to reassure yourself – it is a one-off. A collector’s item. A oncer.
It’s impossible to imagine the grand final not at the MCG, right? Here’s a bit more history. Previous grand finals were played at East Melbourne, South Melbourne, St Kilda and Carlton, and in 1991 there was even one at Waverley Park. Talk about foreign and far away, with its own climate. No-one could wait to get back to the MCG the next year. There’s a lesson in that.
It’s not just that it’s hard to imagine the finale not at the G, it’s that most footy fans only ever get to imagine it wherever it is. It’s a big event in Melbourne, but it’s 25 times bigger on TV. One of the morals of this season is that once a game is not at your club’s home ground and not anywhere where you can get to it, it becomes difficult to remember exactly where it is. The homogeneity of modern stadia doesn’t help.
The point is that for most fans, it’s nice that the grand final is at the MCG, but it wouldn’t matter if it was in … I was going to say China, but I wouldn’t want to give the AFL ideas.
So the Gabba will do, just this once. Good for them. Rather than mourn, let’s be properly Victorian about it, which is to say, let’s pat the Queenslanders patronisingly on the head and thank them for “saving” the season, and say how good it will be the the advancement of the game up there among those irredeemable rugby league savages, and gee, it’s nice to feel a bit of (referred) sun on our backs, but you wouldn’t want to live there all the time.
And feel sorry in a superior way for Adelaide and giggle that Perth even thought it was a chance, which deals with the only two possibly real threats to Victorian footy hegemony. Terrific grounds, though.
And be grateful that we’re getting our grand final holiday anyway, and start to mark off the days until the 2021 grand final.
Because it is coming back.
Greg Baum is chief sports columnist and associate editor with The Age.