Perth’s historic first AFL grand final will be played as a twilight match to be broadcast in prime time on Australia’s east coast after the league locked in the start time for the September 25 decider.
The grand final, which was already confirmed for the 60,000-seat Optus Stadium, will begin at 5.15pm local time (7.15pm AEST).
It will be the second grand final in AFL/VFL history played outside Victoria and the second that finishes at night, following last year’s decider under lights at the Gabba in Brisbane.
“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,” AFL fixtures boss Travis 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.
“Historically, a really special part of grand final day is the build-up and anticipation, and we want to ensure we can share the excitement and atmosphere with the millions watching across the nation and around the world.”
Four teams remain in premiership contention, with Melbourne and Geelong to do battle in the first preliminary final at Optus Stadium on Friday night.
Port Adelaide will host the Western Bulldogs in the second preliminary final at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night.
For the first time, the grand final combatants will have a week off before meeting in the decider.
Three-time premiership wingman Isaac Smith said featuring in what will likely be the only AFL grand played final at Optus Stadium – at least for several decades – is a huge lure for players.
“I did mention to someone the other day saying it’d be a good one to play in because it could go down as one of the best in history,” Geelong star Smith said on Monday.
“Optus Stadium is unbelievable. I’m sure the light show and everything they do around it will be fantastic.
“I’m pretty sure the AFL and West Australian government have put a lot of things in place to make sure it’s a pretty spectacular event.
“I know we’re very excited to put our best foot forward and try and make it.”
It is expected the grand final will return to the MCG in 2022, when it could also be moved back to the traditional afternoon time slot.
In March, the AFL announced this year’s grand final would be played at the MCG on a Saturday afternoon.
But those plans were abandoned once Victoria’s latest COVID-19 outbreak saw Melbourne thrust into another lockdown, with the grand final moved to Perth.
The MCG and Victorian government have a long-standing contract with the AFL to host the grand final.
The contract has been extended to 2059.