Nobody wanted this. The AFL Women's grand final between the Brisbane Lions and the Adelaide Crows will be played before a men's AFL match, in what is a pretty poor look for the game's governing body.
You might recall we flagged the possibility of this happening a couple of weeks ago, when we told you that The Gabba in Brisbane may not be ready for footy, due to the Adele concert which caused much of the turf to be ripped up.
Lions communication manager Steele Tallon assured us that new turf would be ready for this Saturday's grand final, but alas, the grass has not grown in time.
Instead of The Gabba, the inaugural AFL Women's grand final will be played at the only other large AFL-ready stadium in south-east Queensland, which is Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast.
The problem is, there's already a men's game between the Gold Coast Suns and Brisbane Lions scheduled for Metricon at 7.05pm. The AFL Women's season decider will take place on Saturday afternoon, and while it's obviously not a "curtain-raiser" per se, it'll kind of feel that way.
When AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan gave a nine-minute speech at the launch of the AFL Women's competition on February 1, he made big noises about finally taking women's footy seriously. He said the new competition was all about two words: "equality and aspiration".
It's safe to say his vision would have included a grand final which was a stand-alone event, a momentous occasion where fans could stay on and party after the game without being forced to vacate their seats for fans attending a follow-up men's match.
So how has it come to this?
Well, many people are blaming Gabba curator Kevin Mitchell, who is said to have prepared the grass on the centre square area with an eye to the Ashes Test in November rather than the immediate Lions football commitments -- both men and women's.
For the record, the Lions and cricket authorities have a longstanding stoush in Brisbane over the playing surface of The Gabba, with the Lions claiming they're always treated second best.
But the AFL has to take responsibility for allowing a local dispute like this to get in the way of its national competition. Caroline Wilson made a good point in The Age when she wrote:
It is true that the controversy over the Gabba surface has again highlighted the poor working relationship between the football club and the cricket-leaning ground staff who appear to have hijacked the Lions' right to host the first historic play-off.
But it is also true that the AFL, not to mention the Queensland government and the Brisbane Football Club, should never have been left at the mercy of an allegedly rogue curator in the first place.
It's hard not think that a bit of old school Melbourne exceptionalism was at play here. Reading back through the AFL's own communications as they talked about potential Melbourne grand final venues, it seems they never seriously considered the possibility the match would be played outside Melbourne.
Gillon McLachlan said that he was "angry" and "profoundly disappointed" about the Gabba situation. But there's an argument that every single home ground for each team should have been set aside for potential action on grand final day, March 25.
You get the feeling that would have happened in the men's competition if the grand final didn't take place at the MCG each year.
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