Aussie comedian Dave Hughes loves his footy but he needed some convincing before getting behind a stunt ahead of the grand final.
As the AFL prepares to take the big dance away from Victoria for the first time in history because of COVID-19 and play it in Brisbane, a little part of Melbourne will still play a role on the biggest day of the season.
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A piece of turf — measuring 3m by 1m — from the MCG goalsquare is being transported so it can be re-laid at the Gabba for the grand final on October 24.
The move has reportedly been in the works for months and created quite a stir on social media when it became public knowledge on Wednesday as a refrigerated truck backed into the MCG to collect its delivery.
The stunt is the brainchild of Rebel — a longtime sponsor of the AFL and AFLW. The sports retailer covered the bill, not the AFL — which has been forced to announce significant job cuts because of the huge financial toll coronavirus has taken on the game.
At first, Hughes said it wasn’t a good look.
“If current AFL brains trust think $100k+ cost of tearing up strip of MCG turf and flying it to Gabba for GF is money well spent in this financial climate, they may have retrenched the wrong people,” Hughes tweeted.
Former Channel 10 sports reporter Tim Gossage politely told Hughes Rebel was behind it all, making the point the AFL wasn’t throwing away money that could be spent on more meaningful projects elsewhere. But the funnyman doubled down.
“Nothing happens on the GF arena without AFL approval Tim,” Hughes tweeted. “Old saying ‘perception is reality’ comes to mind.
“Rebel didn’t get much mention for their bucks till now that people are arking up. Not sure that’s the promo they want!”
However, after thinking things through and being made aware the AFL wasn’t needlessly over-spending during dire financial times, Hughes changed his tune.
“I’ve had a rethink since this tweet,” Hughes wrote in response to his original complaint. “If Rebel Sport are paying for the cost of transport and more and there’s a net gain to AFL budget, maybe AFL will get closer to rehiring retrenched staff, which means I was wrong to go off half-cocked.”
Not everyone was willing to get behind the move, though. Former Adelaide Crows player Stephen Rowe blasted the stunt, saying it made the AFL look too Victoria-centric.
“This is the dopiest decision this year,” Rowe told Adelaide’s FIVEaa radio. “The look of it stinks.
“It just plays into the hands of those of us that think it’s still the VFL. Could they be any more insecure?
“If Richmond actually win through and as a team they kneel down and kiss that patch of turf, I’ll spew up.
“Don’t hide behind a sponsor paying for it … Mark Marketing would have rung a dopey sponsor and said, ‘Can you help cover the cost?’
“This would be thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars. I hope every cent of it goes into junior football and game development.”
Adelaide-based radio presenter William Goodings, who co-hosts FIVEaa’s breakfast program, was equally as incensed at the need for Victoria to be involved.
“It’s embarrassing and it’s stupid … how do you have faith in an organisation that thinks picking up a bunch of dirt and grass and shipping it halfway across the country is a good use of anyone’s time?” Goodings said.
“The desperate insecurity that the MCG needs to be involved somehow … it’s like the Pope not being able to be at the Vatican … get over yourselves.”