Family, fans in thoughts at AFL decider

When he runs out before a capacity AFL grand final crowd in Perth, Melbourne skipper Max Gawn will spare a thought for fans in lockdown back home.

© Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS Max Gawn has enjoyed having fans at the Demons’ final training session before the AFL grand final.

More than 60,000 people are set to fill Optus Stadium for Saturday’s premiership decider between the Demons and Western Bulldogs.

The contrast couldn’t be more stark back in coronavirus-ravaged Melbourne, where social gatherings are limited to five people across two households.

Players from the competing teams have been unrestricted since emerging from quarantine, a privilege not lost on their respective captains.

“We were able to get out of Melbourne at a pretty grim time for the city, and both teams have been able to come over here in sunny Perth and be able to live our dreams to be able to play in a grand final,” Gawn said.

“We both have a responsibility to get out there and perform at our best and make our members and families and supporters proud that are back in the eastern states doing things tough.”

Fans at Optus Stadium are being encouraged to stand and applaud at the 20-minute mark of the first quarter as a sign of solidarity with those in lockdown in the eastern states.

“I think that would be great,” Bulldogs skipper Marcus Bontempelli said.

“There’s no doubt that you do, at different points along the journey, reflect on all the great things we are experiencing here but how things are different … and those you’d love to have as part of the journey.

“Anything that does send a bit of a tip of the hat to all the people back home that can’t fully experience the game and the build-up, I think would be a nice touch.

“Everyone is thinking of them.”

Perth has embraced the occasion with more than 10,000 fans attending an open training session on Friday to get a glimpse of their favourite players.

Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said his side had received a warm welcome from locals.

“I think both clubs are experiencing some parochial support from West Coast and Fremantle supporters who are adopting one of us as their second team while we’re here,” he said.

“We’re feeling the love so that’s quite good.”

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