As a non-religious young male with a passion for football, the reasons why there’s no football played on Good Friday simply bewilders me. To me, Good Friday is a normal public holiday, but for the Christian religion, it’s a sacred day to cherish, to reflect and of course, abstain from eating red meat and sacrificing normal quantities of food in the name of Jesus Christ.
While I have little interest in the religious teachings of many, I value and encourage their freedom to celebrate and commemorate important dates and events annually in however way they wish to do so, as long as it doesn’t control other people’s lives in any way. Last time I checked, however, the AFL isn’t a part of the Catholic Church in Australia, so why is there a need to respect their public holiday? While we’re at it, why don’t we have football put on hold for a month to respect Ramadan starting in June this year? Or perhaps, no football on Visakah Puja to respect the Buddhist population?
To me, there is no justified reason why we do not play football on Good Friday. I understandt it’s a ‘fan’s game’ but what I don’t understand is how one sector of fans, one religion in particular, is able to have a grapple on the national sport for one day during the season. It truly escapes me but thankfully, it seems the future holds a lot in store for the AFL community.
In 2014, the AFL Commission approved the future scheduling of AFL games on Good Friday. Former CEO Andrew Demetriou, was always against the proposition, but on his way out of the AFL conceded that Good Friday football was inevitable. With successor Gillon McLachlan now committing to the fans, the chances of seeing a Good Friday blockbuster grows ever so plausible. There were early suggestions of likely candidates to host the prospective event being interstate destinations such as Gold Coast or Sydney. They have caught a great opportunity and letting it slip through their fingers.
The AFL have a chance here to create a new blockbuster game and they will be throwing it down the drain by having the game played in rugby-dominated states where the attendance will be sub-par, as opposed to the capacity of a blockbuster MCG match.
What I believe should happen is a strong partnership between the AFL and the Good Friday Appeal which will see two Melbourne clubs nearly sell-out the MCG and help raise money for the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH). As a past patient, I can only speak of the utmost professionalism and attitude of the staff at the RCH, and every year I am eagerly hoping that donations are aplenty. In 2014, the Good Friday Appeal raised nearly $17 million, and yet here’s an opportunity just waiting to be picked up which will see a large crowd enjoy a traditional Friday night out at the footy with the willingness to give generously to such a fantastic cause and truly kick-start a family-orientated long weekend.
North Melbourne put its hand up to participate in the potential game in the future, but whether it’s a North Melbourne vs. Western Bulldogs tradition or perhaps the suggestion of even a rotating fixture each year, it would still suffice and it would still create a magnificent asset to AFL football.
If you’re still not convinced, don’t get me wrong, I understand resistance to change. But let me put things in a comparative view. In 1959, Anzac Day fell on a Saturday and the Victorian Football League, as it was then known, played all of their matches on Saturdays. This led to a dilemma, as the football society at the time was heavily against any form of football being played on such a noteworthy day. Thanks to an idea from Kevin Sheedy, the AFL in 1995 implemented what is now famously known as the Anzac Day Clash to commemorate the lives of Australians and New Zealanders lost due to war and to truly keep the Anzac spirit alive. The match is now regarded as the biggest home and away game in the AFL, regardless of the team’s successes or positions on the ladder, and the legacy that has been built in the 20 years since its inception has been simply phenomenal.
I’m not saying that we could turn a Good Friday blockbuster into a direct competitor for such an accolade but what I am saying is that the arguments are all too similar to ignore. A once-forbidden idea to play football on a particular day has now become one of the greatest success stories in AFL history and there’s every chance that we could collectively turn Good Friday into an infamous annual AFL encounter. The plan is feasible, the argument is reflective of pre-Anzac Day clashes and the chance to utilise a public holiday into a fundraising extravaganza seems like the right thing to do.
If the AFL and the Good Friday Appeal ever consider such a promising alliance, I will be the first person to put my hand up to not only donate even more to such a worthy cause, but to assist with the collection of donations at the MCG. Good Friday football – it just makes sense.
For more information on the Good Friday Appeal, visit www.goodfridayappeal.com.au and remember to donate because while we may all sit at home enjoying our long weekend with our family, there are too many kids in the Royal Children’s right now who are fighting for their life. Please give generously.