Not since round eight, 1952 – when four of the six games were played outside Victoria in National Round – have there been so many teams hitting the turf to play home games in foreign territory.
And supporters in Queensland are expected to lap up the opportunity to see live action, with the 5000 tickets available for the Richmond-Sydney clash at the Gabba on Sunday selling out in less than 10 minutes.
Next week, 30,000 supporters are likely to attend Optus Stadium to watch Collingwood play Geelong while the SCG and Giants Stadium have had supporters for weeks as the COVID-19 cases in their states stabilise.
It’s not what the AFL wanted, with the cost of relocation running well into the millions and the logistical exercise to relocate 10 Victorian clubs before the borders shut massive. Clubs only became aware late last week that they would need to pack up and get out of town soon after their round-five matches finished.
Despite AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan saying the decision to relocate hastily was based on a reading of the play rather than specific information from government, the urgency was obvious with Carlton, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs sharing the Mercure Hotel on the Gold Coast, the Bulldogs awkwardly sharing hotels with their round five and six opponents.
St Kilda based themselves in Noosa, with their coach Brett Ratten suggesting they might do their team meeting on the bus to the Gold Coast so they could relax once they got to the ground, while Essendon and Richmond headed to Southport temporarily as they will head to the Royal Pines hub once West Coast and Fremantle return home to Western Australia to quarantine.
Geelong headed to the Pullman Hotel in Hyde Park with their leftover players playing a practice match against Collingwood’s non-selected players on Friday morning. The Magpies were staying at the Sofitel in Darling Harbour before both clubs head to Perth to quarantine on Saturday.
Gold Coast have spent the week in Wollongong after being in Victoria during round five while the Lions, Sydney, the Giants, Adelaide and Port Adelaide can cross into each other’s states as long as they don’t go near football’s heartland.
With the travelling parties – that include partners and children in some cases – stretching from between 60 and the mid-90s, it has been a redeployment like no other, making the issues of the past around switching venues seem trivial.