BY JACKSON MILLER
Millions of footy fans are buzzing with excitement as the 2020 AFL season is set to resume in close to 24 hours, with rivals Collingwood and Richmond going head-to-head at an empty MCG.
Footy fanatics are not shy when it comes to expressing their joy that the sport they love is returning.
Point Cook resident Brianna Svilar barracks for Hawthorn and is outnumbered in her household two-to-one as her mother and brother support the Western Bulldogs.
She is “really excited” footy’s back.
“To be honest, I’ve been looking for an excuse to get away from studying,” Ms Svilar said.
As a Hawthorn supporter, Brianna is also excited for her team to square off against Geelong in Round 2 under Friday night lights.
Hawthorn and Geelong have one of the greatest rivalries in the AFL, along with Collingwood and Richmond, meaning many fans are salivating that the first few games back are guaranteed blockbusters.
But from Thursday night, footy will look and sound a little different. Artificial crowd noise will be employed during broadcasts to create atmosphere, due to a ban on crowds.
A team will be on-hand to make sure the sounds match the play.
When asked how she feels about crowdless stadiums, Ms Svilar was understanding.
“It’s going to be a bit weird," she said.
“Hopefully we can eventually go to the games, but at the same time one [coronavirus] case could easily stop all games as well. So I’m just happy it’s back.”
Luke Chops, from Melbourne, and Karlen Putney, who hails from Newcastle, are both passionate Collingwood supporters and members of the fan Facebook group Us Against Them.
Mr Chops described himself as “dead keen” that the season is back on track.
“It’s a great distraction to have the game back. I’m not worried about the season at all,” he said.
Both were disappointed that games will be played without crowds, but Mr Chops remained optimistic that they will return.
“I think in a few months time we’ll get some fans in the grounds. I do like the idea of crowd noises, as I think it’ll add a bit of atmosphere to the empty stadiums,” he said.
Mr Putney said having no fans at the games would be “weird” to see.
“Crowds for footy players play a huge part of how they get through the game,” he said.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said the possibility of crowds returning this season was very real.
“We’ve got a pretty much finalised, 80 per cent done, crowd plan in terms of how we'd go working within the rules and we’ve got international learnings, and are working with venues and specialists,” McLachlan told 3AW.
Despite this plan, McLachlan made sure to point out that crowds will only be allowed if and when the government and health authorities allow it.
Collingwood has placed cardboard cutouts of their supporters behind one set of goals at the MCG, an initiative the NRL implemented for its restart a fortnight ago.
AFL players have come out and expressed their own joy that they will be running back onto the field, despite having to abide by strict COVID-19 regulations.
Essendon midfielder Devon Smith told 7 News “it is what it is”.
“I think it’s a small sacrifice for us and if it gets the game going quicker then it’s good,” Smith said.
Geelong midfielder and AFL Players Association president Patrick Dangerfield told SEN “if that’s what we’ve got to do, then that’s what we’ll do”.
“We’ve got a responsibility and we understand where the game’s at, and we want to get back to playing,” Dangerfield said.