Excitement grows as Cats, Tigers fans await twilight clash
Victorian fans will have to wait a little while longer to see their premiership heroes in the flesh, but the players will be free to break out as soon as the final siren sounds in the AFL Grand Final on Saturday night.
Richmond and Geelong players have been prohibited from entering bars, pubs and restaurants since March, but this weekend will escape more than seven months of hardline AFL hub protocols.
The AFL has resisted calls to increase attendance for the Brisbane Grand Final, holding firm on a 30,000 capacity crowd at the Gabba.
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Both clubs have had to follow strict guidelines since the season started.
Players marked their 100th days in hubs last week.
But the league confirmed its Queensland bubble would pop as soon as the season ended about 10pm on Saturday.
Tickets were made available to Richmond and Geelong club members on Monday. Any unused allocations will go on sale to the public in the coming days.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan met with Queensland health authorities on the weekend and agreed to maintain the COVID cap.
"We've done a bit of gentle pushing but we are here because we've respected the decisions of the chief health officer and the (Queensland) government," McLachlan said.
"The atmosphere at the Gabba was electric on Saturday night - it felt full.
"It'll be an unbelievable atmosphere and we're very pleased to be here."
Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has warned Melbourne football fans not to host underground barbecues and parties.
Melbourne fans from two households will be able to gather outdoors in groups of 10, but an opening date for pubs has been pushed back, along with eased restrictions to allow household visits.
"We are not at a point where we can have indoor gatherings with close friends or extended family," Professor Sutton said on Monday.
"If we were at that point where we thought we could recommend those indoor household gatherings we would be saying that. It is not quite there yet."
Diehard Richmond fan Paul Clarke will be cheering on the Tigers from home despite being unable to participate in the cheer squad as per usual.
Mr Clarke said he had accepted this year's event would be celebrated differently and intended to be screaming support from the couch.
ProfSutton said it was "unfortunate" coronavirus restrictions corresponded with the timing of the Grand Final, but he assured Victorians an easing of rules on indoor gathering was "not far away".
"It would be great if people could work out ways to do it in a way that they can have their beers at home, or shout and scream with their family, with their immediate family or household members," Prof Sutton said.
The AFL kicked off its Grand Final week in Brisbane on Monday with ambassadors and premiership heroes Simon Black and Luke Hodge.
Hodge said he was expecting a close contest.
"I grew up just past Geelong and I barracked for Richmond as a kid so … I'm sitting right on the fence because it's a toss of the coin," Hodge said.
Black will present the premiership cup, while former Port Adelaide star Byron Pickett will present the Norm Smith Medal to the best player.
Originally published as Excitement grows as Cats, Tigers fans await twilight clash