The Gabba prepares for historic AFL Grand Final
The MCG usually starts preparing for the Grand Final in June, and its staff have been working closely with their Queensland counterparts to ensure Brisbane delivers on October 24.
Speaking to the ABC, the MCG general manager of venue and event services Josh Eltringham talked about the enormity of hosting Australia’s largest game of domestic football, something the famous Melbourne stadium has done since 1902 (with the exception of 1991).
"It's the one major event that we look forward to every year and it's the one that means the most to us, I think,"
"So the preparations are long and thorough and methodical, and we make sure that we do everything we can to make sure that nothing slips through the crack."
Despite not hosting an event since June due to Covid-19, Eltringham said work was ongoing to ensure the MCG was ready for when games and fans can eventually return, adding “the grass is in fantastic condition ... it's our most prized possession.”
Mark Zundas, who manages the Gabba, admitted that as soon as Brisbane was announced as the successful bidder for the AFL season-decider, he knew they were up against it.
"It's unusual to only have six to eight weeks to plan for such a major event," Mr Zundas said.
"But I'm 100 per cent confident that we'll be able to give something that's truly uniquely Queensland."
"We're not trying to replicate the MCG — this is going to be a Queensland grand final," Mr Zundas said.
That being said, even before it was official, the Gabba's groundskeeper, who has worked on six AFL grand finals in the past, began adopting Melburnians' traditional grass maintenance rituals.
Believe it or not, the MCG has a specific way of training the grass to grow.
"It's all those little nuances that we're pretty excited about delivering," Mr Zundas said.
Avid fans would recognise the distinct patterns on the ground, visible from the grand final broadcast.
The MCG changes its mowing patterns from squares to diamonds for the season's finals games and the Gabba hopes to do the same.
The Gabba usually hosts around 10 games in a regular season, but this year will have hosted at least 30 before the Grand Final, compared to the MCG which stages some 50 AFL games before the big day.
A $35 million upgrade of the Gabba has been ongoing and were due for completion in September 2020, and despite a slight delay, they are expected to be ready in time for the big event next month.
Zundans explained “all patrons will feel a very different sort of arrival experience.
"We'll have our major entries, they'll be finalised by then [and there will be] a lot of freshening up of the concourses and some of the amenities.
"Some new food and beverage opportunities are potentially going to be available for the Grand Final as well."