Melbourne will unfurl their premiership flag when they host the Western Bulldogs in the 2022 AFL season opener to kick off a March football feast in Victoria.
The first two weeks of the AFL finals won’t be played in Victoria, with AFL boss Gillon McLachlan saying a decision on the location of the grand final is expected to be made within days.
Hopes of an MCG decider are in tatters after Victoria posted another 55 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Friday.
The AFL’s official line is that the MCG remains in the running to host the grand final.
But with McLachlan confirming finals won’t be played in empty stadiums, it seems the MCG’s hopes of hosting the grand final are doomed.
A decision on where it will be played is expected to be made within the next week.
“There’s a lot of planning that goes into that game,” McLachlan told 3AW when asked about how late he could leave the decision.
“I think the conversations will come to a head in the next days, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve probably got up to a week.
“They (the Victorian Government) are supportive of us progressing discussions with other states because they know we have to have back-up plans and we have pretty grown-up, transparent conversations every day.
“I think when we get to the point where we have to call it one way or the other, we will.”
Perth is the hot favourite to earn hosting rights for the grand final.
Under that scenario, Perth would likely host the two preliminary finals before a bye week is called.
That would allow the players to serve the remainder of their 14-day quarantine which would open the prospect of a grand final parade being held through the streets of Perth.
Adelaide and Brisbane are other options on the table for the grand final.
McLachlan ruled out the prospect of a grand final being played in an empty stadium.
“I’m unapologetic about it,” McLachlan said.
“This is the pinnacle – 800 players and staff and 15 million supporters have been leaning in all year and it needs to come to a head and give it justice to the biggest sporting event in the country.
“And that needs to be with supporters because they make the game.”
The current situation means Victoria is highly unlikely to host any finals this year.
“It would be a very sad set-up, there’s no doubt about that,” McLachlan said.
“But we are faced with the circumstances and the cards we’ve got, and the priority is the health and wellbeing of our community. Our game can’t come ahead of that.”
McLachlan expects the finals fixture to be released this Sunday.
The first two rounds of the finals are set to be played in Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.
As for the favourite if the MCG can’t hold the grand final?
“They’re like children, you don’t have favourites,” McLachlan joked.