Having gone undefeated in the NAB Cup, earning the right to play a home Grand Final to claim a little bit of silverware, you can imagine the foul taste in the mouths of both Michael Voss and the Brisbane Lions when they were informed they would be travelling to Etihad Stadium to face Carlton in the decider.
Despite being the only undefeated side in the NAB Cup, the Lions are forced to travel due to their home ground of the Gabba being unavailable due to cricket commitments. Although there was the option to play the game at Metricon Stadium, the AFL decided to ship the game down to Melbourne.
“We’ve missed a chance to grow our supporter base against another code that happens to be the dominant, number one code in our state,” Voss said regarding the AFL’s decision, referring to the NRL.
“We’ve missed that chance and that leaves me quite angry because I’ve been up there for 20 plus years.
“We haven’t played a home match at all and we’re not going to… clearly it’s not acceptable.”
It’s easy to understand the AFL’s thinking in the overall scheme of things. The Gabba is unavailable so the next best option is the commonly-used Etihad Stadium in order to draw a decent crowd. However, there is much less benefit in staging the NAB Cup Grand Final in Melbourne, especially when an interstate team has earned the right to host it.
The NAB Cup Grand Final at Etihad Stadium is sure to drag in over 30,000 people, a number that is great for the pre-season competition and a good sign of interest in the upcoming season. That’s excellent for the AFL but it’s hardly going to make a difference to the growth of the game in Melbourne in the overall scheme of things.
Getting a crowd of over 15,000 to Metricon Stadium, the Gold Coast Suns’ home ground, would be a much better advertisement of the game and opportunity for growth than getting over 30,000 to Melbourne. The game doesn’t need to grow in Melbourne; Queensland is a different story.
The NRL season is already underway and its three Queensland-based teams are getting all the media attention. This would have been a fantastic opportunity to not only get Brisbane fans excited for the upcoming game but branch out to Gold Coast fans and the wider Queensland media by getting a decent crowd to fill up the stands.
In its endeavours to grow and market our game to those in the western suburbs of Sydney, the AFL appears to have forgotten about the importance of keeping Gold Coast relevant. In the friendly competition between both Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney’s marketing departments to get to 10,000 members first during this pre-season, it was unsurprisingly GWS that won out. It’s almost as if Gold Coast is becoming the middle child; new and interesting for a while until the newest addition comes along.
There is no doubt that the AFL will want to see a big crowd right before the AFL season kicks off, however, the chance to host a competitive game of football for a piece of silverware in front of a new audience has been passed up. Let’s hope that these chances are not passed up in the future for the sake of the AFL’s growth in Queensland.