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Where else but Queensland: Gabba's AFL grand final will feature nippers march past

Culture

A showcase of Queensland’s iconic lifestyle, including surf lifesavers and a nippers march past, will join local music acts to light up the first evening AFL grand final at the Gabba on October 24.

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The first AFL Grand Final to ever be played outside of Melbourne will feature an unmistakeable Queensland vibe, after the state enabled to the AFL season to be played out in relative isolation from the pandemic.

As a nod to the Queensland hubs on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast that homed the bulk of the AFL’s teams, nippers from the state’s surf lifesaving clubs will conduct a historic march past as part of the Grand Final half-time entertainment.

It is understood nippers from clubs along the coast have been practising for their Grand Final half-time march past, a tradition of surf lifesaving that includes club members carrying a reel, wearing a belt and carrying the club’s flag.

The display which will be televised as part of the match coverage as well as performed in front of a COVID-maximum Gabba crowd, is expected not only to showcase Queensland’s iconic beach culture, but demonstrate how much the state has been able to return to a degree of normality in the wake of coronavirus and health emergency lockdowns.

AFL teams, including preliminary finalists Geelong and Richmond, have spent a chunk of the season temporarily relocated to the Queensland hubs and have played a raft of “home” games at the Gold Coast, Cairns and the Gabba at Brisbane.

The Grand Final half-time entertainment will also feature Brisbane band Sheppard, known for hits including ‘Geronimo’ and ‘Coming Home’. In a statement, the band said the “importance and sheer scope of this event isn’t lost on us”.

“Obviously, this is an absolute dream gig for any band in any year and we are pinching ourselves that we’ve been given such an incredible opportunity.

“We’ve got a euphoric, energetic and colourful show planned that we hope you’ll all enjoy.”

Brisbane indie-pop band Cub Sport will feature and Indigenous electronic duo Electric Fields will perform with Brisbane singer Thelma Plum and Rockhampton roots duo Busby Marou.

Jeremy Marou, whose family hails from Murray Island in the Torres Strait, said the grand final was a huge opportunity for local bands.

“It’s just insane, it’s the biggest gig in the country … it’s incredible,” Marou said.

A special welcome to country will be performed by Brisbane group Tribal Experiences from Yuggera-Toorabul Country.

In a melding of styles and locations, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra will play from the Gabba to accompany ‘Up There Cazaly’ writer Mike Brady who will perform the famed footy anthem from the grand final’s traditional home of the MCG.

“The acclaimed Queensland Symphony Orchestra will also perform, delivering a memorable musical experience as a first in Australian sport. In another Australian Grand Final first, Chong Lim, famed musical director, will oversee the unique blend of artists and orchestra,” the AFL said in a statement.

The combined performance will be beamed onto the big screens at the Gabba and into the Channel Seven broadcast.

The event’s creative director, Thea Jeanes-Cochrane, said the grand final entertainment would be a showcase of the best local and Australian artists.

“Working closely with the AFL, we have completely reimagined the Grand Final entertainment this year creating multiple firsts, such as featuring an orchestra and creating both a pre-game and half-time show for stadium and broadcast audiences across Australia and the globe,” Jeanes-Cochrane said.

Other artists to perform will include Sydney Brit-poppers DMA’s and Wolfmother’s lead vocalist and guitarist Andrew Stockdale.

DMA’s said it was a “real honour” to be named performers for the event.

“COVID-19 has hit our nation hard, but the footy has given many of us a great source of joy and excitement over these last few months,” the band said.

The Gabba grand final is the first time that the decider will not be played in Melbourne since the Victorian Football League was established in 1897. It is also the first time the game will be held at night.

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