The AFL took an unnecessarily long time to announce the 2019 grand final time slot.
For a decision that took five and a half months to make, I think we were all expecting (and hoping) for more information than we were given.
Simply, this year the Grand Final will be played at 2.30 – the same timeslot since 2001.
For the past few years the AFL has been toying with the idea of a twilight grand final and have been tempted to push the start time back but, to the delight of the fans, the Grand Final will remain a day game.
Every year since this discussion began, an overwhelming majority of fans have voted in favour of the traditional day timeslot (in the Herald Sun fans survey) over twilight or an evening:
Five years of Herald Sun polls on Grand Final timeslots:
2019 — 72% ☀️
2018 — 74% ☀️
2017 — 71% ☀️
2016 — 72% ☀️
2015 — 74% ☀️
AFL Players surveyed last year:
Fans and players are united — 2.30pm ✅
Over to you, AFL Commission ..https://t.co/7J3pnLrFyS
— Sam Landsberger ???? (@SamLandsberger) March 10, 2019
It seems the AFL’s back and forth is nothing more than conditioning us for what’s to come. To take five and a half months to discuss the timeslot and keeping it the same says to me that the fans do have the final say… for now.
If the tactic is to discuss a twilight timeslot for months and show supporters this is the future in order to ease them up, it’s clearly not working.
We are traditionalists and once again are resisting changes we don’t like that have been presented by the AFL (as you can see above).
But if a twilight Grand Final is inevitable, why won’t the AFL just pull the plug and trial it? If it were truly about the fans, this wouldn’t be a discussion at all.
I personally think those in charge are going the wrong way about it.
Overall on the AFL fixture, the twilight timeslot has never really been a feature.
It was only really introduced with the Suns and Giants joining the league.
If twilight games have never really been a feature in our game, or a timeslot that everyone is fighting for, what makes the Grand Final any different?
It’s not held in the same prestige as, say, a Friday night game.
Nothing about twilight in today’s game is desirable, so if the AFL wants us to want it, they need to make a good case for it.
I would start with trialling the slot in marquee games.
You can’t just raise the idea of a twilight grand final and within five years change it and expect no one to bat an eyelid. You need to ease people into it.
We are blessed with a few standout games on the fixtures but only one of those is played in a twilight slot:
Day: Easter Monday (Hawthorn vs Geelong), ANZAC Day (Collingwood vs Essendon), Queens Birthday (Collingwood vs Melbourns).
Twilight: Good Friday (Rotating teams – a standalone twilight fixture in its first two years, now we have 1 x twilight and 1 x night).
Night: ANZAC Eve (Melbourne vs Richmond), Dreamtime at the G (Richmond vs Essendon).
So why the desperation to shift the Grand Final first?
Why not trial the twilight slot on Easter Monday or Queens Birthday instead?
These are monster matches every year so it seems like a perfect opportunity to give it a go it then.
If it gets a pass mark from fans, then look at taking the next step and scheduling a twilight grand final. If not, take it all back.
But right now the AFL isn’t making a great case in its favour. Instead it’s a Gil McLachlan x Channel 7 brainchild and no fans are going to be genuinely enthused about that one.
My pick would be to trial it on Queens Birthday.
The game has transformed into an event to fight MND, so why not give it some more airtime before the match.
That way we can properly assess if the timeslot will work and if it does then perhaps move onto the Grand Final.
No matter what the AFL decides to do, it must stop going back and forth.
The AFL just has to suck up its pride and make the call on a twilight grand final instead of dancing around the idea for five and a half months and getting everyone worked up.
Either trial it or trash it.
Because at the end of the day, the Grand Final shouldn’t be about anything but the best two sides of the season playing for premiership glory.
The game could be played at 2.30pm, 5.30pm, 7.30pm, 11.30pm… you’ll still have a full house and electric atmosphere.
But the sad reality is the game is shifting away from pleasing the fans and towards pleasing everyone who will pump big bucks into the league.
AFL supporters are traditionalists and love the game for what it is and what makes it different from anything else around the world.
A day grand final is unique and is special to those who have supported and loved the game for decades.
Doesn’t that mean something to the AFL?
Stop making the game about yourselves and start making it about the fans.
They deserve it.