Nothing is off the table for the AFL as the sport looks forward to the time it is given the green light to restart the 2020 season – including the possibility of a Christmas grand final away from the MCG.
League boss Gillon McLachlan is determined to squeeze in the remaining 144 games, plus finals, of a shortened 17-round season before the end of the year when life returns to some level of normality after the global coronavirus crisis.
The AFL was on Friday handed the flexibility to play games deep into December when the AFL Players’ Association agreed to a new pay deal to slash wages by up to 70 per cent in response to the shutdown.
“We will do whatever we need as long as we’re prioritising the health and safety of our players and the community,” McLachlan told Fox Footy when asked about the possibility of playing the grand final either side of Christmas.
“As long as we’re leading the right way and in sync with where the government wants us to be – and where the community expects us to be – we will do whatever we need to do after that to get a season away.”
The MCG will be handed over to cricket’s Twenty20 World Cup in late October, with the first game at the venue scheduled for Sunday, October 25.
That would leave the MCG available to the AFL for the first two weekends of October to possibly host a grand final, with at least 10 days required to prepare cricket pitches.
The league is willing to shorten gaps between games to compress the season in order to play the grand final at its preferred venue, which has a capacity of around 100,000 fans.
“We’re in an incredibly uncertain time, to state the obvious,” McLachlan said.
“That’s our priority (to play at the MCG) but if we can’t then we’ll do whatever we need to to get it away.
“We’ve got a playing group that I know has been given a hard time but they actually do care deeply and they’ll do what they need to do.”
McLachlan maintains a national draft will be held this year despite the likelihood that junior and state league action will not restart.