10 things I love (and hate) about watching an AFL game with small crowds

AFL games with small crowds

Below are my 10 random thoughts (good and bad) after covering Sunday's AFL game at Giants Stadium, where North Melbourne Kangaroos secured an upset win over GWS Giants.

  1. I've been an AFL (and NRL) fan since I was six years old and, over the past 2-- odd years, I've always loved the atmosphere as you walk towards the ground. Music, parents and their kids kicking footies around and the old fashioned food and merchandise vans. Today... There was nothing. And it made for a kind of eerie atmosphere walking into Giants Stadium.
  2. As you would expect in 2020, I was made to take a temperature check before entering the ground. I was happy to take (and pass) the test, but it just added to the surreal feeling of attending footy in this brave new world.
  3. The AFL allowed more than 300 Giants members into the ground on Sunday. While they were small in numbers, they were mighty in voice from the opening bounce. Cheering on the Giants, questioning the umpires calls (especially with 22-10 free kick count in North's favour) and, of course, booing. It's a footy tradition after all... right?
  4. Carrying on from that last point. If anyone has watched the NRL in recent weeks and the AFL this weekend, they would have noticed the simulated crowd noise which TV networks are using to make up for the lack of noise. It's amazing how much of a difference even 350 footy fans make. It adds some authenticity to the game again.
  5. Sticking with the noise theme, you really learn how much players (from both sides) talk during the game. Whether it's calling out a players name for a handball, or saying their teammate's name as intended target while kicking, there's a lot of chatter out on the field. You can understand why this is drummed into you by coaches as a junior.
  6. With the AFL re-starting this weekend, players have emerged with a range of bizarre haircuts for round two. There were some strong nominees in this game... but nothing beats Roos defender Jasper Pittard's peroxide blonde mullet. Skipper Jack Ziebell was recently asked what he thoughts of Pittard's look, and he simply replied that Jasper loves it. Very diplomatic!
  7. Back to the footy, the AFL has introduced a host of new rules in 2020, including the controversial, shortened quarters (16 minutes plus time on). I wasn't a fan initially because Thursday night's clash between Richmond and Collingwood just seemed to go too quickly. But I felt like I got my proper footy fix again on Sunday. I'm sure players have adjusted quickly to the shortened game... maybe us fans are starting to do the same?
  8. You can't knock the efforts of players after nearly two months away from the game. Both teams dug in with big tackles, but maybe lacked the polish that comes with continuous footy.
  9. Of course, those clean skills will come as the competition continues to ramp up again over the coming weeks. Stay patient, fans. Those skills that AFL players are renowned for will return.
  10. But, finally, it's just great to have footy back again (no matter how it looks). As restrictions are expecting to continue ease in the coming weeks, hopefully we will see bigger crowds return to games soon.
  • Joshua Bartlett is a sport reporter at the Illawarra Mercury.
This story AFL games with small crowds first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.