Queensland looks to footy fiesta

Brisbane could host two of Aust­ralian sports’ biggest events in October, with the AFL and rugby union eyeing off the city for their showcase matches.

There is a prospect Brisbane will host both Bledisloe Cup Tests in Brisbane, on October 10 and October 17. The latter is one of two dates under consideration for the AFL grand final.

The prospect of a clash with the Wallabies on October 17 is another­ wrinkle for the AFL to consider this week, when determining bids from across the country for the grand final.

The AFL is weighing the merits­ of retaining a bye leading into the finals, which would push the grand final back to October 24, or pushing ahead to ensure it completes the season, given the uncertainty of COVID-19.

While the prospect of a double­-header in Brisbane on October­ 17 would be a sporting dream, there are hurdles to overcome for that to eventuate.

Queensland officials raised the prospect of a twilight grand final to avoid the scorching spring heat in Brisbane as part of a bid to host the AFL showpiece at the Gabba.

A West Australian bid would also see the final held in twilight or at night at Optus Stadium.

Swayed by public option, the AFL has retained a daytime grand final when all other finals in recent­ years have been held in a twilight timeslot or at night. But the extraordinary circumstances of this season means this will be a tradition-breaking year.

The AFL is determined to ensure the grand final does not clash with the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate race meetings, significant events in Melbourne in October.

Even if the AFL grand final is held on October 24, there is a strong prospect Brisbane will host AFL semi and preliminary finals as well as Bledisloe Cup Tests on the same day.

Queensland Premier Anna­stacia Palaszczuk, Tourism Minister Kate Jones, Gold Coast Suns chairman Tony Cochrane and Brisbane Lions boss Tony Swan presented a bid to the AFL Commission based around a “festival of football” finals series.

It included glitzy functions for the Brownlow Medal, Rising Star and All-Australian awards on the Gold Coast. The prospect of live sites throughout Queensland is also being canvassed.

Queensland has proposed a COVID-reduced crowd of 30,000 at the Gabba, which has a capacity of 42,000. Ms Palaszczuk said the experience of hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the growing popularity of AFL in the state were reasons to bring the final north.

The Premier has been reticent to openly fight for the event until the Victorian government finally concedes the match cannot take place at the traditional MCG.

Key to the “softly, softly” approach­ is a line that Queensland would be the “temporary custodians” of the game, while Victoria battles to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“Being in a position to host the season is very much our way of repayin­g the many kindnesses Victorians have shown to us time and time again,” she said. “Everyone would prefer the grand final to proceed in ­Melbourne. If it can’t, Queensland is ready.”

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