At the SCG for the Queen's Birthday? Sydney's bid to host the venerable Victorian game
After rescuing the AFL this week, Sydney has launched a bid to host the iconic Queen's Birthday game at the SCG.
The SCG has emerged as a contender to host Melbourne's traditional clash with Collingwood, dubbed the Big Freeze at the 'G, if the MCG remains unavailable due to Victoria's coronavirus outbreak.
The league is collaborating with the Demons and the FightMND charity to develop contingency plans for the game, a marquee AFL fixture that has evolved into a major fundraiser in recent years as a result of AFL great Neale Daniher's inspirational work to help find a cure for motor neurone disease. Adelaide is also being considered as a back-up location.
The AFL confirmed Wednesday that it had not ruled out the possibility of the game remaining at the MCG, but there is considerable uncertainty following the Victorian government's extension of Melbourne's snap lockdown by another seven days. Even if restrictions are eased next week, crowds are unlikely to be permitted at games that weekend.
While the league has the option of playing matches in vacant Victorian stadiums, it is considering the potential benefits of relocating major games interstate.
This year's Dreamtime game will be a sellout – all 50,000 tickets for Saturday night's relocated match between Richmond and Essendon at Perth's Optus Stadium had been sold by Wednesday morning, after going on sale at 5pm (AWST) the previous day.
Locations NSW chairman Tony Shepherd has expressed to the AFL his desire to host the Queen's Birthday game if it is relocated.
“We would be delighted to host it if the MCG is unavailable,” Shepherd, who is also the chairman of Greater Western Sydney, said.
Though Sydneysiders are not known for attending AFL matches that do not feature the Swans or Giants, this is not your typical home-and-away match.
During the pre-game, football personalities dressed in costumes ride down a slide into freezing water to raise money for motor neurone disease research. Daniher, a former Essendon captain and club champion who spent ten years as the Demons coach, was diagnosed with cancer in 2013. Sufferers have a median survival time of 27 months following diagnosis.
Sydney will host three of the six round 12 games, a significant boost for the code in NSW, though it remains to be seen whether the city's football community will show up.
To illustrate the difficulty the AFL faces north of the Murray River, there is a good chance the Dreamtime game in Perth will draw a larger crowd than all three Sydney games this weekend.
The Swans anticipate a crowd of approximately 20,000 to 25,000 – a decrease of at least 15% from their SCG average of 29,329 this season – for Saturday's rescheduled clash with St Kilda.
Swans officials, having witnessed what was accomplished in Perth with little notice, are privately livid that they were forced to wait until Tuesday night to inform their members of the change. The general public was not able to purchase tickets to the games until Wednesday afternoon.
On Wednesday, the AFL was still finalizing marketing and promotion plans for this week's games.
Despite the significance of the match between ladder leaders Melbourne and third-placed Brisbane on Friday night, it is likely to be played in front of a sparse crowd at Giants Stadium.
The league will be hoping for a larger turnout than AFL converts David Mack and Richard Kolodziej, who have already indicated their intention to attend. Both men were among the 4236 spectators at last week's Richmond-Adelaide game.
“For those of us who enjoy watching a good game of footy, first versus third would be an extremely exciting match,” Kolodziej, 67, of Georges Hall, said.
“At one point in my life, I believed rugby league was the greatest sport on the planet. I've switched allegiances recently; I'm a true convert.”