Finals fever has begun as footy fans descended on Melbourne’s Yarra River for this year’s history-making AFL grand final parade – but some angry fans have slammed the switch away from holding the event on the city’s streets.
The staple feature of footy’s biggest week usually moves through Melbourne’s city centre with players on the back of utes, but this year the Sydney Swans and Geelong Cats floated along the waterway affectionately known as the ‘upside-down river’ due to its muddy brown water.
The AFL scrapped the event in 2020 and 2021 when the grand final was played interstate due to Covid-19 lockdowns in Melbourne.
This year’s parade featured players travelling down the Yarra from the Swan Street Bridge to the Princes Bridge from 10.30am, before turning back to the MCG as the state enjoyed a public holiday.
The players have been presented to the crowd outside the ground, with the 2022 premiership cup on display.
However, the switch from the streets of the CBD to the riverbanks has gone down like a lead balloon with many fans.
One of the main gripes from supporters was the fact it was hard to see the players, whereas in years gone by the stars were up close and personal.
‘No interaction with the players and coaches,’ Alex Baskin tweeted.
‘The key component of the AFL Grand Final Parade is for the fans to get up close and personal with the players. The idea of requiring binoculars to find your hero from a riverbank isn’t ideal,’ wrote Adam White.
A tweeter named Milly wrote: ‘Sooooo so so bad. The boats turned around way before anyone in this photo who waited for hours in your ‘viewing areas”.
Geelong fan Sue Garlick said the parade organisers need a ‘good kick up the bum’.
‘It was the biggest fizzer ever. There were no cheers from anyone. There were kids crying because they didn’t get to see anything,’ she told The Age.
‘Says a lot about the AFL that someone thought it would be a good idea,’ Ashley Little tweeted.
3AW Radio’s Tony Jones was scathing, branding the new parade a ‘disaster’ and saying: ‘I would put this in the same category as Meat Loaf, AFLX and the Batmobile … in 10 years’ time we’ll be looking at pictures of this and using it as a punchline.’
The grand final has already drawn thousands to the city with 75 per cent of Melbourne’s hotels, motels and serviced apartments booked out for the weekend.
‘It’s a really extraordinary boom for us,’ Victorian Sports Minister Steve Dimopolous told reporters on Friday.
‘It’s really important but it’s also fundamentally about who we are as a community of Victorians.’
Mr Dimopolous said accusations of racism at the Hawthorn Football Club would not tarnish the excitement of grand final week.
‘They are harrowing and really disturbing allegations,’ he said.
‘But the AFL has strongly committed to an independent external investigation, which is the right thing to do.
‘It’s provided us clear air and some genuine opportunity for Victorians to enjoy the greatest game in the country.’