The AFL Grand Final is primed and ready to go but one star has become the unluckiest man in Australia after a selection nightmare.
After another year spent trying to avoid Covid-19, the AFL will have its second straight interstate Grand Final after last year’s twilight decider at the Gabba.
The 2021 Grand Final will be played at Perth’s Optus Stadium in front of a packed house, assuming a Covid-19 scare on Wednesday doesn’t turn into an outbreak.
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But on the eve of the game, the Bulldogs have had to make a brutal call, with Ryan Gardner dropped from the team despite playing in all three finals leading up to the final.
The Dogs confirmed the heartbreaking call when the team lists were announced on Thursday.
Gardner, 24, played nine matches for the Dogs this season and it was expected he and Zaine Cordy would be vying for the final position. Cordy, who played 18 games this season, will line up in the Grand Final.
Melbourne Demons vs Western Bulldogs: Everything you need to know
Round 19, 2021: Melbourne 9.11 (65) defeated by Western Bulldogs 13.7 (85)
Round 11, 2021: Western Bulldogs 8.11 (59) defeated by Melbourne 13.9 (87)
Round 13, 2020: Western Bulldogs 12.8 (80) defeated Melbourne 7.10 (52)
Round 17, 2019: Western Bulldogs 10.14 (74) defeated Melbourne 9.12 (66)
Round 17, 2018: Melbourne 18.11 (119) defeated Western Bulldogs 10.9 (69)
All-time head-to-head: 169 matches — Demons 89, Bulldogs 79, 1 draw
Where and when will the AFL Grand Final be held?
The 2021 AFL Grand Final will be held at Perth’s Optus Stadium for the first time with the biggest drawcard the 60,000 strong crowd expected for the game.
General public tickets were snapped up in less than 10 minutes and the queue was reportedly five times bigger than for the 2020 Grand Final.
How to watch the AFL Grand Final?
The AFL Grand Final will be live and exclusive on Channel 7 and 7HD.
However, if you hope to stream the Grand Final, you will only be able to watch through 7 plus if you have a Telstra TV, Fetch TV, Apple TV, a PlayStation 4/5, an Android TV, or Samsung Tizen model from 2016 and later.
Fox Footy is running a blockbuster day of football beginning from 2pm through to 11.15pm. You can also watch a replay of the grand final on Fox Footy and Kayo from 11.15pm.
If you’d rather listen to the game than watch, ABC Radio, SEN and AFL website will have live radio broadcasts.
Who is the Grand Final entertainment?
This year’s pre-match entertainment is loaded with local West Australian talent, including John Butler, Eskimo Joe, Abbe May, Stella Donnelly, Men at Work’s Colin Hay and Young Australian of the Year Baker Boy.
The Waifs’ Donna Simpson and Vikki Thorn and Indigenous duo Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse will also feature.
Mike Brady’s traditional performance of “Up There Cazaly” will once again be beamed into the venue from Melbourne due to Covid-19 restrictions, while Noongar cultural ambassador Richard Walley will conduct the Welcome to Country.
The Australian national anthem will be performed by Amy Manford, who played the lead role in a West End production of Phantom of the Opera.
The AFL confirmed Perth-based alternative rock group Birds of Tokyo will headline the Grand Final’s halftime show alongside the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.
Is Covid an issue?
At this stage it doesn’t appear to be, however, there was a truck driver who tested positive on Wednesday after visiting the state.
Health officials don’t believe it will cause an outbreak as even his co-driver tested negative for Covid, but AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said there are contingencies in place.
“If something happened — we’ve been dealing with this for two years, and we would be able to find a way of dealing with it,” McLachlan said last week.
“If for some reason things changed, we’d deal with it. It wouldn’t be ideal. It’s not something we’re contemplating or think is going to happen.”
What are the odds?
As of Thursday morning, TAB had Melbourne as $1.65 favourites to the Bulldogs at $2.25.
Melbourne pair Christian Petracca ($6) and Clayton Oliver ($7) are the Norm Smith favourites, while Dogs skipper Marcus Bontempelli ($8) is the best value for his side ahead of Demons skipper Max Gawn ($9) and Bulldogs star Jackson Macrae ($11).