Location, Location

TEAM TALK with JORDAN by Jordan Sennett Perez

The AFL Grand Final is each year held at the iconic MCG which is short for the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The Stadium is a showpiece of not only Melbourne but of Australia and the world. The ground can hold just over a 100,000 people and when achieving that, it is a Colosseum like no other with the atmosphere and noise beyond overwhelming it’s difficult to not have spine tingles knowing first-hand what it is like. For all the plaudits and success that the MCG has had for continuously hosting the Grand Final there has been and there still is an ongoing debate regarding equality and fairness of the location of the Grand Final since Melbourne is home to 10 out of the 18 AFL clubs and 6 out of those 10 clubs are permanent tenants of the MCG.

There is the main reason being that the premiership decider should be shared around each year with the benefits being farer on the interstate teams that have to travel and to continue to cultivate the game outside of the Victorian heartland. Those on the other side of the fence point to tradition that the MCG has and always will be the home of the Grand Final. Outdated is the word that first comes to mind when hearing that it is a “tradition” yes, a VFL tradition to host the Grand Final not an AFL one.

Prior to the game going national in 1990, when local suburban grounds were still in regular use, the MCG made sense as a largely neutral ground with no team being a regular permanent tenant of the ground. Since the AFL went down the centralisation road which saw imbalance within the competition rise, playing the Grand Final at the MCG which as mentioned before is home to several Victorian based clubs is the single biggest hindrance on the 8 non-Victorian clubs in the AFL.

Since 2003, just 5 interstate teams have claimed the premiership and 3 out of those 5 were against fellow non-Victorian teams. Seven Victorian teams to go with 4 more who play their home games elsewhere in Melbourne have claimed the other flags, some against teams who were not only interstaters but the higher ranked team.

Did home ground advantage play a part in it? Absolutely 100% yes and should the higher ranked team host the Grand Final wherever they are based in Australia? Absolutely yes again.

One is example is Richmond who have arguably or unarguably been the best team in the competition for the past few seasons but their charges towards their 2017 and 2019 premierships make for much closer analysis than what was originally given.

In 2017, the Tigers did not once leave the MCG and even unofficially hosted the qualifying final against Geelong even though the Cats were the higher ranked and the game really should have been played at Geelong’s actual home ground (Kardinia Park) located in the city of Geelong located 75km south-west of Melbourne and also played host to and beat the higher ranked Adelaide in that year’s Grand Final where home-ground advantage was a huge factor.

Even more noteworthy is in 2019 where Richmond played at the MCG for 7 consecutive weeks and only leaving once thereafter to play Brisbane in the qualifying final in Brisbane which they won therefore heading straight back to the MCG on route to the flag. These outcomes and circumstances cannot go unnoticed, these things can’t be simply brushed aside as a footnote, it must be brought to attention as a flaw and a huge inconsistency and fixturing within the AFL.

The MCG has the contractual agreement to hold the Grand Final until 2057 which is a long time away… Too long. Come the year 2058 there must be change and the AFL will become a true national competition.

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