AFL grand final to be played at the Gabba, with decider leaving Melbourne for first time

The AFL grand final will be played at the Gabba in Brisbane on October 24, marking the first time the trophy decider has been played outside Melbourne.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan also announced that the game would be played at night for the first time ever, with an exact starting time yet to be determined.

“The impacts of this pandemic … have meant we’ve had to take the game away from its home, the MCG, for one year,” he said.

McLachlan said the game would be played in front of 30,000 people — however he said that if there were COVID-19 outbreaks that made it impossible to achieve this number, there was an ability to reduce the numbers or to move the game to Adelaide Oval as a backup.

“It [moving the grand final to Adelaide] is not something we’re contemplating — but it’s prudent for us to have a backup plan,” he said.

There has been debate for some years over the possibility of holding a twilight or night grand final.

The traditional start time has been in the afternoon, at 2:30pm AEST.

However, the later finish to the season due to the coronavirus shutdown means that the grand final falls on the day of one of horseracing’s big races, the Cox Plate.

McLachlan said the grand final was likely to begin later than 6:00pm Queensland time (7:00pm AEDT).

He said the aim would be to have a bye weekend between the final round of the regular season — round 18 and the start of the finals.

The grand final has only been played away from the MCG once since 1945, with Melbourne’s Waverley Park hosting the 1991 grand final between Hawthorn and West Coast because of construction works at the ‘G.

The AFL was forced to make the change this year because of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in Victoria.

AFL executives had also considered pitches from Perth, Adelaide and Sydney.

The AFL premiership cup was flown to Queensland on Tuesday ahead of today’s announcement.

Much of the 2020 AFL season has been played in Queensland, with hubs set up across the state allowing teams to stay and play against each other.

Teams from Western Australia and South Australia were the first to hub in Queensland after the season’s restart in June, but further outbreaks in Victoria and NSW forced clubs from those states to head north mid-season.

Multiple games each round have been played at the Gabba and at Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast, but exemptions from the Queensland Government have allowed teams to travel in and out of the state as well.

Grand final a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity, says Palaszczuk

Speaking at the Gabba after McLachlan’s announcement, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk assured AFL fans across Australia that Queensland “will put on a show” for the grand final.

“We know it was a difficult decision,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“We acknowledge how important AFL is to Victorians. We will host the final here with the utmost respect. Queensland will do our best to put on a show.

“This is a historic day for the AFL and for Queensland as well.

“We know there are huge opportunities here to grow AFL across Queensland, especially in regional markets (like) Cairns, Townsville and Mackay.

“It’s a great win for Queensland and I am very honoured. We know how important this game is, we have a strong COVID industry plan in place with the AFL.

“This is a oncein-a-lifetime opportunity and we are not going to let anyone down.”