When Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced a further loosening of restrictions in regional Victoria last Sunday, Brock McFarlane’s Geelong pub, The Sporting Globe, put an additional 40 AFL grand final party tickets on sale.
They sold out in 10 minutes.
“It was crazy. I can’t explain how hectic it has been,” Mr McFarlane said.
“We were sold out as soon as the tickets came out, pretty much.”
The regional Victorian pub can welcome 140 customers to watch the city’s only AFL club, the Geelong Cats, take on the Richmond Tigers at the Gabba in Brisbane.
Four indoor rooms will be filled with a maximum of 10 people each, and 70 people are allowed in the outdoor beer garden.
Mr McFarlane said they were thankful to be allowed to welcome so many people to watch the match, albeit a fraction of the crowd they would usually see for such a big event.
“It’s super exciting to get the new restrictions eased as well so we had some more spots open up,” he said.
“It’s one of the best things that could have happened.
Cats fans tip a comfortable Geelong victory
Troy “Catman” West has been leading supporters at Kardinia Park.
“We’re here to cheer on the boys, and we feel like the closest to the pulse of the Geelong Football Club is at the ground,” he said.
“It’s just joy, drop, joy, drop, it’s like up and down see-saws, but we’re not here to be miserable, we’re here to cheer them on. The game’s still on and we’re going all the way,” he said.
Eileen Sims of Feast Geelong café has been selling Cats cupcakes, and a tiny number of Tigers cupcakes.
“I’d say probably about 500 to one, in terms of cakes,” she said.
Tigers fans join virtual crowd due to coronavirus restrictions
Meanwhile, in inner-city Melbourne, at the doorstep to the MCG in Richmond heartland, COVID-19 restrictions are making for a very different day.
But despite the lockdown, the Tigers’ traditions are living on.
Normally the AFL grand final would bring fans thronging to Richmond, regardless of who was vying for the flag.
In a normal year, there would be a hive of activity outside the stadium one day before the big decider, but yesterday two Richmond supporters had settled in for their annual grand final public holiday picnic.
They weren’t the only Richmond fans trying to hold onto their finals traditions and come to terms with the fact the big match is being played in Brisbane and not at the MCG.
Jane Dalli and her son Lee have still managed to be swept up in the excitement of seeing their team vying for the premiership and have been visiting their favourite Tigers landmarks ahead of the game.
“We’re on our way to see the Dusty wall,” Ms Dalli said.
“What we went through last year was so exciting and to share it with [Lee], being at the final together was just brilliant.”
This year, those types of celebrations are banned.
Parties are restricted to groups of 10 from two households outdoors.
Despite the forecast rain and the coronavirus restrictions, Ms Dalli is upbeat.
She’s been sewing sequins onto an outfit for the home viewing party she has planned, even getting earrings hand-made to achieve the perfect yellow colour.
Ms Dalli’s loungeroom is also dressed in the team colours.
“We’re pretty pumped about it.”
The family will be watching the game on television, but their cheering will be broadcast across the country as part of a virtual crowd.
When the Tigers took home the flag last September, pubs overflowed, and the streets were crammed with yellow and black fans.
Swan Street Traders Association president Leanne Quinn expects the familiar sight of fans in the street will return if Richmond takes home the flag.
“People will still come down and celebrate in some which way — as long as they social distance,” she said.
“I’m hoping fans will still come down and celebrate, but celebrate in a social distancing manner and a lawful manner.
“I’m sure they will because the police will be out.”
Back in Geelong, Mr McFarlane said seeing the Cats make the grand final at a time when coronavirus restrictions are easing in regional Victoria had given the city a morale boost.
“It gives people a sense of hope again and a sense of enthusiasm after being locked down for such a long time and not being able to really do much,” he said.
“Everyone seems happier … we’re just crossing our fingers that the Cats win … fingers and toes!”