Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan makes bold claim about AFL Grand Final

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Premier Mark McGowan has claimed Western Australia “saved the AFL season” by agreeing to host the 2021 AFL Grand Final amid surging Covid-19 case numbers in Victoria.

Discussions between the AFL and governments of both Western Australia and Victoria culminated in the relocation of the biggest game of the year to Perth for the first time in history.

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Optus Stadium’s ability to host an unrestricted, Covid-safe crowd ultimately led the venue to beat the Gabba and Adelaide Oval for hosting rights last September.

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The grand final, between the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne, went ahead with what McGowan called “the very strictest and strongest of protocols” that included requiring both teams to complete hotel quarantine on arrival in Perth.

As the new AFL season approaches, the Western Australian government has yet to confirm a date at which its notoriously tight borders will open.

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The NBL’s Perth Wildcats and A-League’s Perth Glory are currently in limbo, unable to return home.

When asked whether he would consider signing off on fly-in-fly-out arrangements for professional teams, McGowan said his government had a history of productive negotiations with sporting codes.

“We’ll continue to work on those measures with sporting codes,” he said.

“You might recall, Western Australia saved the AFL season last year. We saved the AFL. Great grand final, held with a full crowd in a very safe environment.”

McGowan has previously said he believed the 2021 Grand Final, a 74-point win to Melbourne, was “the best one in history”.

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Camera IconMcGowan has been notoriously tough on border control. Credit: The West Australian

McGowan said his government would continue to prioritise the health of Western Australians.

He pointed to the state’s decision not to host the fifth Ashes Test as evidence of his commitment to the safety of residents on the west coast.

“If sporting codes don’t want to adhere to the rules we put in place, for instance cricket didn’t want to, so we didn’t hold the Ashes Test here in January. Well, that’s a decision for them,” he said.

The state government’s decision to delay the opening of Western Australia’s borders was met with criticism from stranded players on the eastern seaboard, but McGowan stood by his decision to lock out residents.

“Opening the border with no restrictions when they have tens and tens of thousands of cases per day in the east was unwise. You’d have to be foolish not to understand that,” he said.

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