The AFL’s controversial move to a hub in Queensland has proven to be a massive windfall for the state’s economy, with the league reportedly spending upwards of $60 million to host games in the northern state.
The second-wave outbreak of coronavirus in the AFL’s spiritual home of Melbourne turned the season on its head, forcing the league to turn to Queensland, WA and South Australia for assistance in getting the season away.
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Queensland won the battle to host the AFL grand final after the majority of the home-and-away season was played up north.
The Courier Mail revealed a total of 101,000 nights in accomodation and 400,000 meals in Queensland restaurants had been paid for by the AFL, a welcome economic boost in an otherwise dire year for business across the board.
The AFL have also logged 120 chartered flights and booked more than 10,000 car and truck rentals - proving the controversial move to allow them into the state was not without benefit.
The Queensland government’s call to allow 400 AFL personnel into the state wasn’t without controversy.
The number of people allowed into the league’s hub topped 400 earlier this month, prompting veteran journalist Tony Jones to suggest it was getting “out of control”.
Days earlier, images leaked which appeared to show those in the hub gathering at the pool, contradicting AFL boss Gillon McLachlan’s claims those who had travelled to the hub would have to quarantine in the same manner as anyone else.
The amount of people allowed to enter Queensland from Victoria due to their links to the AFL was also heavily criticised as the state government otherwise kept overwhelmingly tough restrictions in place.
“But it was perverse, rather than bizarre, to witness a legion of 400 Aussie Rules officials and their families fly into the Sunshine State this week and ensconce themselves in the AFL hub on the Gold Coast,” Sydney Morning Herald opinion writer Scott Emerson published at the time.
“Perverse because it followed a series of heartbreaking medical emergencies south of the Tweed where patients abandoned their attempts to cross the border to use Queensland hospitals.”
Cancer patient Trace Miller, who struggled to gain entry to see her surgeon in Queensland from northern NSW, said she was “disgusted” to hear how the AFL were ushered through.
“That is like saying sports are okay, but the people who are in need of medical help don't have an option at all,” she told Channel Nine earlier in September.
With the league on the cusp of the finals, which will likely see matches played across all three aforementioned states, attention is turning to the upcoming pre-season training camps ahead of the 2021 season.
The AFL has floated the possibility of training hubs to be set up for pre-season training, with an announcement regarding the 2021 season expected to come in the next few days.
AFL confirm Brownlow Medal to be held virtually
Meanwhile, the Brownlow Medal count this year will be conducted as an entirely virtual event for the first time as the AFL's showpiece events continue to be affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The league's best and fairest award ceremony will take place on a Sunday night - October 18 - to kick off a week of festivities leading into the grand final.
The AFL confirmed the latest alteration to its traditional calendar on Wednesday, citing difficulties around holding the event amid coronavirus concerns.
More than 1000 guests usually attend the black-tie Brownlow Medal count at Melbourne's Crown Palladium, where the glamorous red carpet arrivals of players and their partners have become almost as big as the award itself.
"The Charles Brownlow Medal is our game's highest individual honour and continues to be the most prestigious night of the AFL calendar," AFL commercial manager Kylie Rogers said.
"It's incredibly difficult to get people together in indoor event spaces in a responsible manner given the current environment, and the community's safety has been at the forefront of every decision we've made.
"While the glamour of the red carpet will be missed this year, we are looking forward to delivering a special format made specifically for the broadcast audience at home, so our fans can continue to celebrate their heroes and their achievements this year."