It’s magic: AFL plan for Queensland footy frenzy
THE AFL's love affair with Queensland is set to continue long after the final siren of tonight's historic Gabba Grand Final.
Thrilled with their extended time in the Sunshine State, Victorian clubs are exploring the logistics of starting their 2021 pre-season campaigns in Queensland while the code is also keen to establish an answer to the NRL's Magic Round to build on the momentum of a season like no other.
The "Footy Frenzy" could see a condensed schedule of games played in Queensland next season in much the same way that Magic Round captivated NRL fans with a blockbuster weekend of matches at Suncorp Stadium last year.
The footy frenzy could include a week-long festival of football with games every day of the week spread between Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Cairns after the three centres stepped up as saviours of the AFL season when the coronavirus crisis forced the code to abandon the spiritual heartland of Melbourne.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan yesterday would not be drawn on speculation of a Queensland footy frenzy, but said the code was keen to capitalise on the buzz around the sport in the traditional rugby league heartland.
"We feel like we've built some great momentum up here so we're obviously keen to capitalise on that next year," he said.
Apart from a blockbuster answer to Magic Round, Victorian AFL clubs are also investigating the possibility of starting their pre-season training campaigns in Queensland in what would shape as another major financial windfall for the state.
The AFL has already poured about $70 million in to the Queensland economy by relocating hundreds of players and personnel while the grand final weekend is set to generate another $20 million.
With no answer on how long the impact of the coronavirus might last, clubs could report back to the Gold Coast before Christmas for pre-season training if Melbourne is still under strict COVID-19 regulations.
Mr McLachlan said everything was on the table heading into next season.
"We're exploring what's possible," he said.
"The clubs that have been based on the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast have been extremely impressed with the facilities and the weather so we're looking at what's possible moving forward."
Not only is tonight's big dance a 30,000-sell-out, but live sites across the state could dwarf that number as Queensland footy fans get swept up in the excitement of the once-in-a-lifetime grand final away from Melbourne's MCG.
Already thousands of fans have pre-registered to attend events slated for Brisbane River Stage and Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast while Townsville, Cairns, Mackay and other sites throughout Brisbane are also expected to attract large turnouts.
Mr McLachlan said the response from Queensland's AFL fans had been 'unbelievable'.
"It's been an amazing year in Queensland," he said.
Figures released this week revealed the southeast Queensland league is now the biggest junior Aussie rules competition in the country, with participation numbers up more than 50 per cent in the past six years.
Players appeared relaxed yesterday as they were greeted by family during a Cats training session at Mantra Southport Sharks Oval.
Patrick Dangerfield said the Queensland hub experience had brought the Geelong team closer together.
"It has been really rewarding all coming together, with 100-odd of us all living under the same roof and socialising together," he said.
Originally published as It's magic: AFL plan for Queensland footy frenzy