Thousands of AFL footy fans turned out in force on Friday in Melbourne’s CBD to catch a glimpse of their football heroes ahead of the grand final on Saturday.
Crows and Tigers fans squeezed in behind temporary fences and anti-terror concrete bollards along Spring Street to see their stars, including Brownlow medallist Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin and Adelaide Football Club captain Taylor ‘Tex’ Walker.
Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane said the physical barriers, set along the route of the parade and other major thoroughfares leading to the MCG, were in place to keep the crowd and players safe.
“It’s both to keep the crowds safe, and the players who are making themselves available for that day, well and truly safe,” he said.
Up to 1000 uniform and plain clothes police were also deployed during the celebrations as the crowd numbers grew to the tens of thousands throughout the day.
As the parade got underway, Adelaide star Eddie Betts told reporters “it would mean the world” to win a grand final. The Tigers’ champion Dustin Martin said it was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity and he plans to “play my role” for his team.
Earlier, Richmond were forced to lock the gates at Punt Rd Oval at 9am as supporters queued since sunrise to watch AFL grand final eve training. More than 5000 fans who managed to gain entry belted out the club song before joining in a standing ovation when the players ran onto the field at 9.45am.
Hundreds more spilled into Yarra Park, desperate to sneak a glimpse here and there of their football heroes while peering over Portaloos.
“There there were probably between 5000 and 7000 people there, I’m not too sure – there was people hanging from everywhere,” Hardwick said.
“All the boys are just loving the environment. It’s a a great time of year to be playing.”
Cotchin and Brownlow medallist Dustin Martin were the clear favourites out on the oval and when it was all over players signed autographs and posed for selfies.
— Richmond FC (@Richmond_FC) September 28, 2017
It’s the third year a public holiday has been held on grand final eve after the Labor government introduced it in 2015.
The parade, which has been part of the game since 1977, finished its run near the MCG, where the Adelaide and Richmond teams were presented onstage and the captains raised the premiership cup.
Coaches’ ‘clean bill of health’ for players
The Richmond and Adelaide coaches have given their AFL grand final sides a clean bill of health after Friday’s training sessions.
Crows coach Don Pyke has dismissed any concern over midfielder Hugh Greenwood’s suspected calf complaint after Adelaide’s closed training session at the MCG on Friday morning.
“All fine,” Pyke told reporters.
“We’ve come over to win tomorrow. Our group is so strong, so resilient. Confident we’ll get the job done,” Walker said.
And Tigers coach Damien Hardwick says his side has no fitness worries entering Saturday’s premiership decider.
“We are in a good state … we have probably been unchanged for the last three weeks,” Hardwick said.
“The players are playing good consistent football and it really is the sum of the parts for our side – and most good sides are similar in nature.”
Both clubs named unchanged sides as they seek to end long grand final droughts – Richmond haven’t claimed the premiership cup since 1980 and Adelaide’s last flag was in 1998.
While the Crows will enter the MCG as favourites, Pyke said only a total team effort would win the premiership.
“We have got to make sure we use all the tools and all the weapons we have got to find our way through whatever defensive mechanism Richmond have got,” Pyke said.