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21 September 2022

The 2022 AFL season is special for a number of reasons. It marks the first full AFL season since 2019 and, I hope, helps put to bed a couple of very tumultuous years for Australians.

As spring has sprung, the deep dark days of pandemic lockdowns seem a world away. But when the going got very, very tough, we turned to the AFL for entertainment.

It is seismic that we have gotten to enjoy a full AFL season uninterrupted.

Now, the big dance is finally upon us. As a Melburnian, there aren’t too many things that can compare to the atmosphere the AFL grand final brings to our city. West Australian fans got to experience the rush in 2021 and Queenslanders in 2020 when the grand final was played on their turf.

This Saturday the grand final will finally be back home at the hallowed MCG.

Now before I continue — yes I am devastated the Pies missed out by a point. One bloody point! A Collingwood man since I can remember, the siren signalling the end of last Saturday night’s final was the end of our 2022 season.

The silver lining of our loss (I’m clutching at straws here) is that we will be watching AFL history. The 2022 AFL grand final is the first time Sydney Swans will play Geelong Cats in a grand final.

Both clubs actually featured in the first few grand finals back in the 1800s. Geelong first played in a grannie in 1897, and the Swans (formerly the South Melbourne Bloods) played two years later in 1899.

For West Australians, Perth-born Carlton captain Patrick Cripps winning the Brownlow may have brought some solace after neither the Eagles or the Dockers made it all the way to the GF.

I like watching the Brownlow. I’m not so into the fashion, but I did note there were efforts on Seven to bring the red carpet into the 21st century and avoid asking the women only about what they were wearing.

Hosts Emma Freedman and Dale Thomas were told “no questions about what you are wearing, who you are wearing, why you are wearing.”

I understand the sentiment, and I agree. Let’s ask more than that, but, in avoiding the sartorial, some of the questions to the women on the red carpet were hilarious.

There was also lots of drama surrounding the Brownlow this year. Outgoing AFL chief Gill McLachlan was reportedly “very agitated” Cripps was the winner, after earning the right to a Charlie when a two-week suspension was overturned in August.

Brownlow viewers, however, were more concerned about the gambling ads emblazoned across their screens. Parents were outraged their children could not watch the Brownlow without being subjected to the odds on a multi.

On Monday, in response to the backlash, Monash University gambling researcher Associate Professor Charles Livingstone said it was important to remember kids love to watch footy.

“We’ve got a generation of kids that have grown up watching football and being indoctrinated to think that gambling is a natural part of the sport,” Associate Professor Livingstone told 6PR.

Foreign-owned online bookmakers saturate all sports coverage with unsolicited advertising. They use gambling advertising to make record profits, shipping half a billion dollars in profits annually to offshore tax havens.

We need stronger restrictions on gambling advertising during prime time and less frequent full stop. It’s sending the wrong message to young West Australians and children and youth across the country.

Labor has launched a parliamentary inquiry into online gambling, which will particularly look at children’s and young people’s exposure to gambling advertising. It’s a welcome inquiry, in my opinion.

I’m hopeful this weekend the coverage and the grand final experiences focus on the footy, or tossing up whether to have a pie or a hot dog while watching the game.

Don’t call me a sore loser because the Collingwood dream was over a point. A bloody point! I will be backing the Sydney Swans over the Geelong Cats this weekend; I am saying Up The Bloods because Sydney did start life as South Melbourne.

This opinion piece was first published in The West Australian on Wednesday 21 September 2022.