After 22 rounds and three weeks of finals, Australian Rules Football teams the Collingwood Magpies and last year’s runners-up, the St. Kilda Saints were set to play off in the Grand Final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) to a crowd of over 100,000 people.
The Grand Final is a gigantic event in Australia, with people travelling from all over the country and international attendees as well. Eric Bana, for example, is a keen Saints supporter and was present at yesterday’s match. It was our first time attending a Grand Final and we were able to score tickets through our St. Kilda club memberships (Andrea is a Saints supporter; John is actually a fan of the West Coast Eagles, but was happy to be a Saints fan for this occasion). We were only able to get standing room tickets this year. Controversy about Grand Final ticketing is rife, with the number one complaint regarding the distribution of the vast majority of seats to expensive corporate packages, and very few tickets actually being allocated to the fans of the competing sides. It is said that most of the people in attendance at the Grand Final couldn’t care less about the teams and the game, but are there as more of a novelty or because they are clients of big bosses who can afford to entertain them on the day. Our standing room tickets cost us nearly A$300 apiece once you factor in the club fees and administration costs on top of the face value of the ticket. And those are the worst seats!
We arrived around midday to find a crush of people on the footbridges across the Yarra River and the rail lines surrounding the MCG. Collingwood is the biggest club in Victoria, with a huge supporter base and dominated the crowd we were in. We made
our way to our gate, passing thousands of painted faces, elaborate costumes and those less fortunate fans holding signs saying “tickets wanted,” several of them mentioning the long distances travelled for a chance to gain entrance to the event. Online, people were offering tickets and payments of $1,000 or more apiece, though scalping tickets is illegal, of course.
Our standing room section wasn’t too terrible or overcrowded, though it is difficult to stand for hours on end. Viewing was definitely restricted, however. You couldn’t even see a scoreboard from where we were standing or the rest of the crowd tiered above. Andrea relied on binoculars and the radio telecast to assist with knowing just what was going on throughout the game.
Pre-game entertainment included a giant football shaped hot air balloon lowering the premiership cup down to the ground,
a set by famous Australian group, INXS and a parade of retiring footballers around the ground. Collingwood dominated the first half of the game. You can never discount the Saints, however, who came back strong in the second half. The game turned out to be an absolute classic. If you follow the football, you’ll already know the result: a draw, with both teams collecting 68 points each for devastating silence at the end of the game. This hasn’t happened since 1977 in the AFL, when it was actually just the Victorian Football League. The official rules state that there is no extra time in the case of a draw. Everyone must come back the following Saturday and do it all over again.
We couldn’t help but think of the time, money and effort everyone had put into the day already, not to mention the poor players, collapsed on the ground with their heads in their hands, confused and cold to the realization that they have to hold out one more week and go to battle again.
One good thing did come out of the day, in our opinion anyway: our favourite player, Lenny Hayes was awarded the Norm Smith Medal for best performance on ground. Having been notably omitted from the 2010 All-Australian Football team, which is comprised of some selectors' opinions of who is the best player from across all the football clubs in each position, Hayes deserved this award. He accepted it with a few quick words, having completely lost his voice from the play. He was quick to remove the medal, a sign that the season was not over for him and it was not time to rest on laurels as there was still work to do.
So what happens now? Ticketing will resume on Monday for next week’s match. Luckily we still have first pick of tickets and more seats are being released for the true fans this time. It will be an interesting game, not only because a draw is such a freak occurrence, but also because the crowd and the atmosphere will be markedly different from those of a regular Grand Final. It has been decided that the rematch cannot be a draw, with extra time being two five-minute periods each way until a winner is decided. We will do our best to be there again.
If you’re in Melbourne next weekend and want to see the rematch, ticketing information is available here.
What are your thoughts on the 2010 AFL Grand Final?