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The GMHBA final integrity contradiction

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Roar Rookie
7th July, 2019
36

Once again, the notion of Geelong hosting a final at home this September is on the agenda.

In all likeliness, there is no possibility or such an occurrence, but let’s for a moment consider the strange counter arguments to the concept.

Caroline Wilson has long been opposed to the idea, and her arguments are worth considering because they encapsulate both the general view of those opposed to the idea, and the extraordinary arguments for why the idea is apparently “ridiculous”.

I think it is worth noting, in all probability the AFL has already decided Geelong will not be hosting a final for the foreseeable future, but it is nonetheless worth considering the counter arguments, and the contradictions that result from them.

The following are a list quotes recently penned by Wilson in an article she wrote, mocking Geelong’s attempts at securing a home final, and my response to each of them.

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Regarding the Geelong vs Richmond qualifying final in 2017
“Given the Cats do play home games at the MCG, the complaining then was ridiculous … The notion that preventing more than 60,000 supporters from witnessing a final first hand when the MCG is also a Geelong home venue … is senseless.”

It seems lost on many people that Geelong are on record as saying they want every home game they play to be at GMHBA Stadium. The fact they are still forced to play home-and-away games in Melbourne is an AFL decision, and does not in any way make the MCG a Geelong home ground.

Until recently, in fact, Geelong were forced to play a number of home games at Docklands, and curiously, these games were almost against teams who call Docklands home.

In these games, home ground advantage was, in no uncertain terms, handed to the opposition, just like when Geelong host Hawthorn or Richmond at the MCG.

Geelong versus Richmond: MCG
“Dangerfield’s assessment that finals fixturing favouring the MCG challenges the competition’s integrity is quite frankly ridiculous. Of all the anomalies in the AFL’s scheduling and questions of fairness the Geelong case for a regional final is low on any rational list of priorities.”

It is factual that finals fixturing favours the MCG, which is the exact reason why all Victorian finals are played there.

Additionally, the ‘fixture anomalies’ argument is fallen back on far too regularly in this debate.

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The AFL forcing Geelong to host games in Melbourne is at odds with just about every other fixturing decision the AFL makes.

Admittedly, MCG teams are forced to play one game at Docklands each year, but usually against an interstate team, while Collingwood plays two games there each year on their choosing, and the seemingly annual hosting of either North Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs, or St Kilda at the venue is the only example of a team handing home ground to advantage to their opponent other than Geelong.

And Collingwood cannot complain: it’s been two decades since they played in Geelong.

Fremantle versus Geelong: 2013
“The Fremantle final at Geelong back in 2013 … boasted a virtual capacity attendance of 32,815. Even that number would have been close to double at the MCG”.

Geelong hosted Fremantle in two finals at the MCG in the three years before 2013. The crowds were 44,460 and 45,056. If we are playing the numbers game, it is best not to exaggerate.

Other interstate teams
“And if we’re speaking of integrity why should GWS or Brisbane have to play a final at a ground less equipped in every way than the MCG or even Marvel when Collingwood, Richmond and Essendon don’t?”

This is the most baffling counter-argument. Firstly, Geelong are only lobbying specifically for those interstate teams to play a final in Geelong, because they know the AFL will never send a Melbourne team there.

The integrity issue here is not that of every non-Geelong team in the AFL. It is the fact that Geelong would not get to play those teams at home. Supporters of smaller Melbourne-based teams regularly argue the unfairness of their team having to go to Geelong, while teams like Richmond, Collingwood and Hawthorn never do.

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Since 2009, Geelong has hosted every single Melbourne team in Melbourne at least once. The unfairness of that fact seems lost to the debate.

Reality?
“At some point Geelong will have to accept reality, put the rights of supporters first and park its campaign.”

In the late 1990s, Geelong literally risked their existence by going against the supposed better judgement of the AFL, and refusing to move all their games to Melbourne.

At the heart of this issue, is the fact that Geelong has never been a suburb of Melbourne, and championing the right play home games at home cannot be logically argued as anything except putting the rights of their own supporters first.

Inherent in this quote is Melbourne-centric arrogance at the heart of the issue: the rights of supporters, not the rights of the home supporters.

Well, we keep talking about earning the right to advantages, and being the higher-ranked team is meant to provide advantages. Unless, of course, you are located just close enough to Melbourne.

Why should Melbournians have to travel to Geelong, the argument goes. Geelong people having to travel to Melbourne though, well, of course they should have to! It’s the big smoke after all.

So, this article was written with a strong awareness of the many, and mostly, illogical, counter arguments people will likely respond with. And I will address some of them in advance of the probably mostly negative comments.

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No, I do not believe or expect Geelong will get any home finals in Geelong this year, or for a very long time. But, on the logic the AFL act as though they use, then yes, Geelong should be considered for a final against an interstate team.

If you are not convinced; allow me to address some contractions.

Some say, well, shouldn’t Geelong argue Docklands teams deserve home finals, then? Chris Scott has said that multiple times this year alone.

Chris Scott

Chris Scott. (Photo by James Elsby/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

But what about locking out the fans? Or, as per the argument mentioned earlier, if some teams don’t have to go there why should others? Well, marry these two arguments together, and then consider this example.

Imagine GWS host Richmond in a preliminary final this year. Where should it be held? Most teams would be sent to Giants Stadium, for sure, due to GWS’ small supporter base.

The Wilson argument though, is of course that, given the amount of fans you would have to lockout, it must be at a bigger venue. So, move it to the SCG, as per the ‘home state’ rule.

Simple, right? Well, in that case, Richmond would not have to play at the same ground as other teams would. But, also, as per the Wilson argument, that also lacks integrity.

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Well then, where should it be, what do you think?