23 July 2020

It is no secret that I love Aussie rules football.

It is no secret that I love Aussie rules football.


There was no girls’ competition when I was growing up, so I couldn’t play anything other than kick-to-kick. I may have missed out, but I am incredibly thrilled that there is a massive interest in grass roots girls and women’s football, and I love being in a position to support the women’s teams of the Rockingham Rams Football Club.


And it is the strength and vibrancy of Western Australian grassroots community football that should motivate us all when we debate the possibility of the AFL grand final being held in Perth.


First things first though. The only reason we are talking about this is because of a terrible global pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world.


This is a health emergency that has led to a long-term economic catastrophe and right now, our friends and families in Victoria and NSW are battling COVID-19 outbreaks all over again.


In such heartbreaking times, it is our great game that gives a lift to the community.


So great are the numbers of corporate ticket holders at AFL grand finals that supporters of the teams playing find it hard to get a seat to the game that takes their footy teams years of effort to get to and lifetimes of loyalty from the fans themselves.


I support the Dockers. I get it.


So imagine for a moment, in this time of global disaster, when the awesome cauldron that is the MCG cannot be used, if the greatest game on earth could play its grand final before people who have loyally supported Aussie rules across generations?


No matter which AFL team is in the big dance, they will have a WA fan club and supporter base.


And no matter what teams play, WA people love footy, they play footy, they watch and listen to the footy, and they turn up. Sandgropers turned up in physically distant droves last week to witness the first AFL game at Optus Stadium between two teams from elsewhere.


Watching Collingwood and Geelong was all about seeing a great game of footy at the highest level in the best venue in the country.


Imagine if community football teams across WA could go to a grand final in Perth?


Instead of a stadium half-filled with corporate buy-outs and east-coast movers and shakers, the game instead could be witnessed by young women and men from WA who play footy week in week out, along with their parents who put in all the weekend sport effort.


And there are plenty of them. Total participation in Australian rules football in WA grew 1.5 per cent to hit a record 346,729 people last year. And in even better news, female participation increased 14 per cent to 109,647.


In any event, Optus Stadium has stellar corporate facilities. The venue’s six spacious corporate rooms and dozens of suites would undoubtedly sell fast in a football-mad town that is also home to some of the biggest companies in the nation, including BHP, Woodside and Wesfarmers.


It may be that the CEO of an AFL sponsor cannot attend the game because they are based interstate and subject to travel restrictions. In that case, there will always be a WA-based manager who can step up and step in!


In 2020, the world is not as it was. The footy is not as it was. If the GF is prevented from being held at the MCG, the obvious next best choice is Perth, Western Australia. This is assuming, of course, that health protocols in our fortunate State continue to allow large gatherings of this sort.


Perth’s 60,000-capacity stadium is Australia’s biggest Aussie rules venue outside the ‘G. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the AFL to return the GF to the people who live and breathe football.


This piece was first published in The West Australian on Thursday, 23 July 2020