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Gabba poised to grab AFL grand final as footy boss flies in for announcement

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The AFL Grand Final is likely to be held at the Gabba in Brisbane on October 24, with AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan flying to Queensland this afternoon ahead of an expected announcement Wednesday.

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Queensland’s pitch to host the Grand Final and the state’s efforts to save the 2020 AFL season after the code was forced to flee Victoria amid the second wave of COVID-19, are expected to be rewarded with the event played under lights from 7pm Victorian time.

Crowds of about 30,000 would be able to attend the Grand Final at the 42,000-capacity Gabba under COVID plans.

The Gold Coast, which has been the hub for the majority of AFL teams throughout the season, is expected to host the prestigious Brownlow Medal.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Queensland had submitted a comprehensive plan to host the Grand Final and she had her fingers crossed.

But she said she knew prying the Grand Final away from Melbourne would be a one-time pandemic opportunity.

“I just want to say this: if Queensland is fortunate, we know that it is just this once and it is to look after the AFL whilst Victoria is going through a very difficult time,” she said.

Speaking from Cairns, where Queensland Cabinet is meeting this week, Palaszczuk sent a last-minute plea to the AFL to lock in the event in Queensland.

“The last thing I want to say before they meet is that Queensland has been there for Victoria in these tough times,” Palaszczuk said.

“We know when the AFL first floated the concept of a hub that Queensland welcomed that idea and we worked with the Chief Health Officer to make that happen.

“Since then we have hosted nearly the entire AFL competition and we know that AFL is growing in Queensland.

“Hopefully they’ll give due consideration to Queensland and I’ve got my fingers crossed.”

Hosting the AFL Grand Final and Brownlow Medal would be an economic boon for Queensland and a massive win for Queensland AFL, from the elite to community level.

At community level, the Government’s pitch to win the Grand Final includes promises for added funding for junior AFL competitions, access to ovals and money for female facilities in rapidly-expanding female competitions.

At the elite level, it means the Brisbane Lions, currently third on the AFL ladder and with a favourable run home in the final four fixtures of the regular season, may find themselves playing in a Grand Final on their home ground.

Lions midfielder Lachie Neale is also red hot favourite to win the Brownlow Medal, leading the betting markets from a host of stars including Christian Petracca (Melbourne), Travis Boak (Port Adelaide), Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong) and Dustin Martin (Richmond).

In its 97-year history, the Brownlow has only ever been held outside of Melbourne once – when the NSW Government paid $200,000 for the privilege of hosting the television event in 1999. It was a move that was widely panned at the time.

A spokesperson for The Star Entertainment Group said the Star Casino at the Gold Coast was proud of its track record of working with the Queensland Government to bring major events to the Gold Coast.

The Star has form hosting major television events, including becoming the new home to TV’s night of nights, the Logies.

“Melbourne had the Logies under lock and key until we hosted them at The Star Gold Coast for the first time in 2018. We’ve helped Government make the Gold Coast home to some of this country’s major events and we’d be keen to add the Brownlow Medal, again from Melbourne, to that list,” The Star spokesperson said.

Queensland’s Grand Final working party, chaired by Suns president Tony Cochrane and including Lions chairman Andrew Wellington and Suns’ and Lions’ chief executives Mark Evans and Greg Swann, bid for the Grand Final against other states under a process run by AFL executive Travis Auld, who was the former Suns CEO.

Late Tuesday, AFL officials and players, including Geelong’s Gary Ablett who will be rejoining his team’s hub, will head to the Gold Coast. It means around 2000 AFL staff, players and families and 15 AFL clubs will be staying in Queensland under COVID-19 approvals.

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