Brisbane Lions triple-premiership player Jonathan Brown has lashed out at the Gabba curator behind the AFL Women’s grand final debacle.
On Monday the AFL was forced to move the inaugural women’s premiership decider, between home side Brisbane and Adelaide, to Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast after the Gabba surface was ruled unsafe.
Long-time curator Kevin Mitchell’s decision to lay new turf after an Adele concert on March 5, with an eye on preparing for an Ashes Test in November, is at the heart of the issue.
Brown was disappointed but not surprised by the turn of events given his experience with the venue’s management over the course of his decorated playing career.
“I lived this for 15-16 years … the AFL are second-rate citizens in Brisbane, especially when it comes to the Gabba,” Brown told Fox Footy on Monday night.
“It’s all about the cricket. Fair dinkum, for the government heavyweights not to be able to step in in this situation … it’s like Kevin Mitchell is the be-all and end-all there.
“It’s an absolute disgrace.
“We’re trying to grow AFL in Queensland still and for it not to be at the Gabba is really disappointing.”
Brown said that he had even been required to ask permission to have a kick out on the turf in the middle of football season, such was the curator’s authority.
Lions chief executive Greg Swann was dumbfounded by the decision to resow part of the wicket area, which has also thrown some doubt over Brisbane’s men’s fixture against Essendon on April 1.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan fumed at the venue’s handling of the situation, but added he had received assurances the ground would be ready for the Lions-Bombers match.
He stopped short of accusing venue staff of sabotaging Brisbane’s bid to host the grand final at the Gabba.
“That’s a slightly different word – I just think this wasn’t made a priority and that’s what really disappointed me,” he told Fox Footy.
“It just feels inconceivable that we get to a situation where the ground is not available.
“It’s very disappointing, it doesn’t make any sense to me, I don’t think anyone contemplated it wouldn’t be there … they’ve had three weeks.
“It was either a competence or prioritisation (issue) … I think it was prioritisation – I mean, you can get a ground ready in three weeks.”
Despite the disappointment, McLachlan said the league’s focus has quickly turned to making the clash the biggest spectacle possible.
“We’re going to make this a great game on Saturday,” he said.
“It will be a good crowd, we were very aggressive with the state government and I’ve been thrilled with their engagement on this from the Premier down.”