A novel idea


by Sam Steele

As the handsomely remunerated executives of the AFL turn their attention to the complexities of the 2012 draw, here’s a novel suggestion for nothing.  What about restoring the tradition of Saturday afternoon at the MCG to its former glory?


One of the things that my recent “Drouin Transfer” has made me appreciate is the effort people are prepared to make to attend AFL matches.

Last Saturday’s V/Line service from Traralgon already had plenty of yellow and black and red and blue folk on board when it arrived at Drouin at 11.38.  It’s a four hour round trip from West Gippsland when track works require a transfer to a bus at Pakenham.  I got home at 7.30pm.


Doing this sort of trip isn’t something that even a diehard fan undertakes every week.  You choose your games carefully.  As I watched the rolling green hills flashing by, I pondered why I’d decided to attend this particular game rather than pick the “live on Fox” soft option.


Obviously, Melbourne and Richmond – two exciting young sides – vying for a place in the eight, made it a pretty appealing match.  But it wasn’t until I was inside the ground along with 62,000 others (the second largest crowd ever for a regular season match between these sides), that it dawned on me.


A beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon and a big game at the MCG.  Simple really.


But, incredibly, this was the first game at the “G” at the traditional time in ten weeks!


Frankly, it beggars belief that the AFL, with its stated commitment to “maximising attendances” leaves our biggest and best ground vacant on any Saturday afternoon during the season, let alone ten in a row.


I wish I could present more than just anecdotal evidence that Sat’dee Arvo at the “G” actually pulls in more punters than other games in other timeslots, but there simply haven’t been enough games to prove it.  Suffice to say, Saturday’s game attracted a crowd about 15-20,000 above the average Richmond v Melbourne roll-up.  The last Saturday afternoon game at the “G”, way back in Round 4, produced another bumper crowd of 78,000 for the Carlton-Essendon draw.  Again, this was probably 10-15,000 above expectations.


So, what’s the special appeal?


In any footy crowd, there’s a percentage who’ve decided on the spur of the moment to go to the footy.  When are these spontaneous decisions usually made?  Late on a Friday after a hectic week at work?  As a gloomy Sunday evening sets in and a 4.40pm twilight fixture presents as an alternative to preparing dinner and readying the family for another week?  Hardly.  Even among a fan-base conditioned to attending games at all sorts of times across a weekend, Saturday afternoon is ingrained in our collective psyche as “footy time”.


Then there’s the cohort that have to travel long distances to get to games like my Gippsland train buddies.  No spontaneous decisions here.  They are committing to a full day out and want it to start and finish at a reasonable time.  Saturday afternoon is the logical choice.


And finally, despite what the pampered theatregoers of the Medallion Club may think, the MCG still clearly enjoys the mantle of Melbourne’s premier stadium.  Fans of any team get a special buzz when they’re playing at the “G”.  They tend to make the extra effort to turn up (and yes, AFL, as the weekend proved, teams other than Collingwood can draw big crowds).


So what say you, AFL?  In between your agonising over whether the Greater Western Sydney public and the national TV audience will go for Thursday or Monday nights for yet another fix of sporting wallpaper, perhaps you could remember the ground and the time that made football the remarkable success it is today.








About Sam Steele

50 years a Richmond supporter. Enjoying a bounteous time after 37 years of drought. Should've been a farmer!


  1. Richard Jones says

    I FERVENTLY hope, Sam, that you’re a supporter of either the Tiges or the Dees. Turning up to see two clubs — neither of them part of your tribe — just beggars belief. On a Saturday arvo, or any time, really !!

    For me, that is. I wouldn’t walk across the road let alone catch a sardine-can public train unless the Mighty Catters were playing. I’m just not innarested in watching any, two old clubs go at it.
    Young and up-and-coming or old and slipping — don’t care.
    Unless Geelong is playing, someone else can rock up to the G.

    In fact, I had to hand back my AFL neck accreditation thingo in the early 2000s. I had broadcast AFL matches for 3 seasons from either the G or the Phone Dome for the Nat. Indigenous Radio Service.
    One Sunday at half-time when I was hosting a Carlton-Hawthorn call I thought to myself: ‘What am I doing here. I’m not even faintly innarested in these 2 sets of mothers. Certainly not the Squawks except to see the Cats flog them.’

    So I handed in the pass and went back to exclusively watching the Cats. Attending a non-aligned fixture is, for me, anathema !!

  2. Stainless says

    Fear not Richard – I am a Tigers supporter. But unlike you I would readily go to a decent game at a decent ground at a decent time if two other teams were playing. Indeed I’ve seen your Catters down the Hawks twice this year and will doubtless see them again in September. Isn’t it good that there’s diversity in the football supporters community!

  3. Richard Jones says

    NOT really, Stainless Sam. I mourn the loss of true tribalism, so evident in the old VFL before the hype and saturation media coverage of the expanded AFL turned everything on its head.

    And the business of attending any old game — decent or not — I ascribe to middle class dilettantism. A character trait very plainly evident on this website.

    In spades!

    How many working class Joes and Joan (and their families), say in Sunshine or Craigieburn or Cranbourne, could afford the time and more particularly the money to just rock up at the G to see a couple of clubs go around.

    Clubs which were not of their true tribe. I would suggest very, very few.

    So, no, I don’t agree with your ‘diversity’ argument. I would suggest the phrase: football dilettantes.

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