Former Brownlow winner Ben Cousins will make a guest appearance at the count, as AFL chief Gillon McLachlan has been forced to defend a controversial call.
Gillon McLachlan has confirmed West Coast champion Ben Cousins will attend Sunday’s Brownlow Medal in Perth as he defended the AFL’s controversial bye leading into the season decider.
Cousins has been dealing with his addiction issues in recent years, and not attended the Brownlow Medal in Melbourne despite being invited as a previous winner.
But AFL chief executive McLachlan said he had confirmed he would attend despite confusion about his status.
McLachlan will read the votes from Perth at a 1000-seat event as the Brownlow is hosted from Melbourne in a twin-state-hybrid model.
He said he understood Cousins, who had battled drug issues but is attempting to rebuild his life as he works in scaffolding and plays amateur football, would be at the event.
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“I saw a list yesterday and he was going,” he said.
“He has been invited every year and for various reasons it’s not been something he has been able to do but I gather he’s in pretty good health and he’s coming. He has accepted, I understand.”
McLachlan said the league’s Grand Final entertainment, which would include Birds of Tokyo, would be announced on Saturday.
He said artists from around Australia would be included, with Mike Brady to sing from Melbourne as part of the pre-match entertainment.
The two-week lead-in to the Grand Final has been criticised for taking the sting out of the traditional lead-up to the game.
But McLachlan said the league had to allow teams to be out of quarantine for a week for equity reasons.
When the league planned its bye, a team could have been flying in from a Brisbane preliminary final and been forced to play while in quarantine without the extra week.
“To explain why, we just didn’t want a situation where we would be coming out of (quarantine), coming into the Grand Final,” he told 3AW.
“The Bulldogs are still in isolation, they won’t come out until Sunday. If it had been a Brisbane prelim they would have been right through until the day of the Grand Final. There is also just a lot of organise logistically.
“We have 22 people on the ground who only came out of quarantine in the last few days
“It gave us some optionality and it helps build up and the momentum is a question but by the time we get to the Grand Final people will be jumping out of their seats for it.”
Cousins has been rebuilding his life and his brand this year, playing amateur football for Queens Park, attending AFL games and speaking openly about his life at functions across Perth.
The 43-year-old, who has been working in scaffolding, has already booked several more functions and television appearances in the lead-up to the grand final as he works to re-enter football life.
But a return to the event in which he claimed his greatest individual accolade would be a significant moment given the level to which he has distanced himself from the game in the recent past.
He made a major return to the spotlight at the 2008 Brownlow Medal when he attended with his mum, Stephanie, while completing a 12-month ban from the AFL. Cousins won the 2005 Brownlow Medal by one vote ahead of teammate Daniel Kerr, having fallen one vote short of Mark Ricciuto, Adam Goodes and Nathan Buckley during their three-way tie in 2003.
Brownlow medallists are always invited to attend the count in Melbourne, and commemorate their place in history by gathering in a private room with other winners during the night.
With WA’s border closed to most of the country, the number of attendees will be limited this year. Nat Fyfe, Matt Priddis, Ross Glendinning, Shane Woewodin, and Graham Moss are among the local players who could also attend the count.
Former Essendon star Gavin Wanganeen could travel to the event from South Australia given he is booked to speak alongside Cousins, Eagles coach Adam Simpson, Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir and Norm Smith medallists Andrew Embley and Luke Hodge at a function on grand final day.
About 800 people will attend the event along with players who are in WA. Players from Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs will be separated from the public and spend the night in a side room to prevent any possible disruption to the grand final from COVID-19.
Emotions high for legends’ honour
Western Bulldogs great Chris Grant wasn’t sure he was allowed to present next week’s AFL premiership cup when he was first asked to do it.
But it didn’t take the Bulldogs’ football boss long to accept once chief executive Ameet Bains assured him he not only deserved the privilege but the unusual Covid-19 circumstances demanded it.
The 341-game champion will hand over the cup to Luke Beveridge and Marcus Bontempelli only if the Dogs beat Melbourne in the September 25 grand final at Perth Stadium.
If the Demons win, it will be Grant’s former on-field rival and Victorian teammate Garry Lyon with the honours.
Both men captained their clubs and are members of their respective teams of the century.
Melbourne CEO Gary Pert broke the news to five-time All-Australian Lyon, who kicked 426 goals in 226 matches, after he finished his breakfast radio program on Monday.
Lyon, who turned 54 on Monday, thought Pert was ringing just to chew the fat, so he was trying to get updates on the Demons’ injured players.
“Then ‘Perty’ sort of said, ‘The main reason I’m ringing is this’,” Lyon told the Herald Sun.
“I don’t want to sound over-the-top cringey, but I just got a bit of a lump in my throat and was really moved.
“It’s humbling and something you never anticipate and I got pretty emotional, to be perfectly honest — and that doesn’t happen a hell of a lot.
“I understand really clearly there are only so many of us over here and there’s a whole army of people back home who aren’t in as fortunate a position as I am.
“So, I’m representing everyone, I think, as Chris would be from the Western Bulldogs’ point of view.”
Grant, who kicked 554 goals for the Dogs and was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2012, was similarly taken aback at the opportunity.
The 48-year-old’s daughter, Isabella, plays for the club’s AFLW team, after being a father-daughter selection two years ago.
“Initially I was like, ‘How is that going to work? I’m not sure I can do that’ and I wasn’t sure it was the right thing to do as well, in the current position I’m in,” Grant said.
“Ameet just said, ‘The circumstances are quite unusual, but it’s not a usual year either’ … it didn’t take me long to say yes.
“It’s quite a special opportunity, having worked really closely with the team and Marcus and ‘Bevo’ as well.”
DO VICTORIAN-BASED MEMBERS DESERVE COMPENSATION?
Angry Victorian-based AFL members are waiting to find out what compensation they will receive after discovering their grand final ticket privileges will go to waste.
AFL members had been hoping they could buy tickets to this year’s historic Perth decider between Melbourne and Western Bulldogs and offer them to friends or family members in Western Australian.
But the AFL has ruled the tickets are non-transferable — unlike club memberships.
Demons fan Kent Heib, who paid extra for an AFL gold membership to ensure he would be able to attend the grand final if Melbourne made it, was among the members upset at the AFL’s decision.
“I’ve paid hundreds of dollars every year for 17 years for this exact moment, so it’s pretty shattering,” he said.
“I wanted to help someone else be there if I couldn’t go, but the AFL won’t allow it.”
Many AFL members had logged onto the Ticketmaster website on Sunday to try to buy tickets to the September 25 decider at Perth Stadium but were left bitterly disappointed when they.
Supporters who relocated to Western Australia but still had a Victorian or NSW address linked to their AFL membership had to frantically update their details.
Melbourne and Western Bulldogs club members based in Victoria were able to buy tickets for the match on Monday and Tuesday.
The league emailed AFL members in locked-down states Victoria and NSW on September 1 to inform them that “at this stage” they were unable to grant access to the preliminary finals or grand final.
That followed the announcement the grand final would be held away from the MCG for a second-straight year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We understand this is not a desirable outcome for many,” an AFL email to members said.
“However with the many challenges of 2021, we hope you understand we must follow the guidelines stipulated by the relevant state governments.”
Victorian crowds were drastically limited this season on government orders, and the last matches played in the state on the weekend of August 21 and 22 were held in empty stadiums.
An email to AFL members last week acknowledged the “interrupted access”.
It also stated there would be communication in the week starting Monday, October 4 on what members’ financial compensation would be.
Those who agreed to pay their AFL membership in full last season despite matches being relocated away from Victoria received a 30 per cent discount this year.
Some fans posted on social media this week they would no longer pay for AFL memberships and would instead put money solely into their respective clubs.
What footy fans will pay to attend Perth grand final
The AFL has frozen Grand Final ticket prices for a third successive year, with West Australian footy fans able to snap up a seat at Optus Stadium for as little as $185.
Ahead of an expected frenzy next week, the league on Thursday released ticket prices and on-sale dates for Perth’s first ever AFL Grand Final at the 60,000-seat stadium.
Members of the competing clubs will be prioritised with an allocation of 12,000 seats each.
However, Port Adelaide is the only remaining club in the premiership race that could go close to filling that allocation, with travel to Western Australia from Victoria tightly restricted.
The lowest Category 6 ticket will cost $185 for an adult and $157 for a concession.
The most expensive Category 1 ticket will set fans back $450 for an adult and $383 for a concession.
Tickets will go on sale for AFL members on Sunday, with club members following next Monday and Tuesday.
Remaining tickets will be opened up to the general public at 10am AWST next Thursday.
Tickets for this Friday night’s preliminary final between Melbourne and Geelong sold out within hours.
“The energy in the city is electric, and we know the demand for the Grand Final will be as strong as ever,” AFL Executive General Manager of Commercial and Customer Kylie Rogers said.
“A full house, with a 60,00 strong crowd, will deliver a pulsating atmosphere for the players, for the crowd in stadium and for everyone watching the broadcast nationally.”
Woosha’s GF honour as AFL makes 2022 promise
The AFL is intent on returning to a traditional daytime slot next year at the MCG despite programming a second successive night grand final outside Victoria.
The league announced a 5.15pm Perth Stadium grand final on Monday, which will see the game beamed into Victoria at 7.15pm.
The game will start on twilight in Perth after pre-match entertainment yet to be announced, with a 26-minute halftime right on dark for another stand-alone entertainment block.
The AFL’s best estimate is that the game will finish at 9.56pm, barring a significant injury delay, which will allow families to watch the game together in Melbourne.
The league was determined to maximise ratings across Australia for the finale to the Covid affected season as well as considering families.
The two-hour time difference meant it was more difficult to play a day grand final in Perth given host Seven is desperate not to interrupt its 6pm news start time.
But the Herald Sun understands the strong view of the AFL’s Commission this year was that an afternoon Grand Final in Melbourne is the best timeslot for a game in Victoria.
The league is certain to return to that slot next year as the game returns to the MCG in what the AFL hopes will be a season less savaged by
At the latest, the AFL might consider a twilight timeslot but after what will be two night Grand Finals the 2.30pm timeslot for the season decider has huge appeal.
AFL fixture boss Travis Auld said the league had attempted to weigh family issues with maximising ratings for the season decider.
“The start time aims to provide fans at the game with the ultimate Grand Final experience by maximising the stadium’s offering while taking into consideration the broadcast audience across the country,” Auld said.
“The AFL, together with the Seven Network, remain cognisant of finishing the match at a suitable time for younger footy fans and, as a result, landed on a timeslot that is earlier than the usual start time for night matches during the season and last year’s Grand Final.”
A former West Coast premiership coach and Norm Smith medallist will have the honour of being part of the medal presentation in Perth’s inaugural grand final.
John Worsfold, who most-recently coached Essendon, will hand over the Jock McHale medal to this year’s winning coach while Andrew Embley will present the Norm Smith Medal to the player judged best afield.
The pair both played key parts in the Eagles 2006 premiership win over Sydney.
The league is set for a strong player presence in its Sunday night Brownlow Medal in Grand Final week regardless of the participants in the season decider.
It has locked in a 7.30pm start for this year’s count.
For the second year running the league will conduct the count as a semi-virtual event on the Sunday before the grand final — September 19.
League chief Gillon McLachlan will read the votes at a Perth Stadium function, while invited players across the country will attend venues near where they are staying.
The big difference for this year is that football’s traditional night of nights will be the showcase event during a pre-grand final bye weekend.
The event will be broadcast live on Channel 7.
Geelong and Melbourne will be out of hotel quarantine this weekend and the Dogs will be out by next week, with Port Adelaide in Adelaide but with the state boasting open borders with WA.
It means players from the participating teams will be at the event with Gillon McLachlan reading out votes in person.
But should a contender like Ollie Wines not make the Grand Final he would be able to fly into WA to attend the event given those open borders.
It remains to be seen whether Brownlow Medal contenders Clayton Oliver and Marcus Bontempelli would stay in Perth for an extra week to attend the event if they lost preliminary finals this week.
Originally published as AFL Grand Final week 2021: Ben Cousins accepts invite to Brownlow Medal