Fuming Eddie McGuire believes he has been singled out for exclusion from travel to the AFL grand final in Perth, accusing the Western Australia premier Mark McGowan of playing politics with Covid restrictions.
While many AFL reporters and presenters have been given permission to travel from Covid-hit Melbourne to WA for the September 25 event, McGuire’s application was denied, despite a series of deals being lined up with Tourism WA to promote the state as a travel destination.
‘It was quite incredible to be perfectly honest,’ Mr McGuire, 56, told Today on Thursday morning. ‘I’m a bit disappointed because it doesn’t make any sense.
Fuming Eddie McGuire (pictured) has slammed his shock AFL grand final ban as nonsensical – and warned Western Australia will suffer as a result.
‘No one was trying to push to the front of the queue, and it makes no sense but what does make sense these days when a politician gets in front of a microphone?’
McGuire was bewildered his application was denied when even those of cadet journalists from the AFL website were granted, and the AFL had asked him to help promote the game in Perth.
The former Collingwood president said he had been singled out for political reasons.
‘It was a bit of big-noting against me,’ McGuire said on Nine’s Footy Classified.
‘It’s unfair to be perfectly honest, I think I do qualify to be over there for all the things I would have brought.
‘Mark (McGowan) is a politician and he’s doing his bit.
‘They’re saying we can’t let people from Western Australia come back so we’ll show that we’re going to be tough and we’ll give Eddie McGuire one because I’m an easy hit, you can have a crack and me and no-one has a go back.
‘If they want to do that, that’s fine, and thank God they’ve only got it for one year.’
Mr McGuire said he and the AFL had been working with state tourism chiefs to use the season decider to push the state’s holiday hotspots.
But those projects would now be scrapped along with plans for symposiums, workshops, student work experience opportunities and hiring local film crews.
Footy stars, commentators, fans from NSW and Victoria, and even players’ WAGs, have been blocked from flying into Perth for this month’s AFL Grand Final. (Pictured, Melbourne Demons fans at Delaide Oval on Saturday)
‘We had an opportunity to promote Western Australia.
‘The state government of Western Australia have obviously got this in mind because they went and got the grand final, for God’s sake.’
The former Footy Show frontman and Millionaire Hotseat presenter had a series of specials lined up to maximise coverage of the state for the grand final.
‘We were in negotiations with Tourism WA to come over and do a whole suite of shows,’ he said.
‘Everything from Millionaire Hotseat like we did up in Queensland last year, Footy Classified, I was going to work on the grand final break for Fox Footy…
Premier Mark McGowan, pictured, has banned AFL stars, including commentator Eddie McGuire, and all NSW and Victorian footy fans from entering Western Australia for the AFL Grand Final – even if they are prepared to do 14 days of hotel quarantine
‘All those things, all the way through, and we had it all going and WA Tourism were fantastic and putting it all together.
‘We were going to do all sorts of shows at Crown and charities, you name it was all set to go…and then we got knocked off, and that was it.’
The WA capital has taken over Australia’s biggest sporting match on September 25 because lockdown restrictions in traditional host city Melbourne would prevent a crowd attending.
Normally thousands of fans along with commentators and the sport’s biggest names and former greats, plus media and players’ families would flood in for the event.
‘The AFL wanted us to be there and then we got knocked off, and that was it,’ said Mr McGuire.
‘We said, okay, no problem, but then suddenly it became a bit of a cause celebre yesterday and everyone piled on.
‘Am I disappointed? Of course, I love football, it’s what I do for a living.’
Mr McGowan also bragged his state didn’t pay a cent to host the grand final for the first time ever, unlike the $20 million Brisbane handed the AFL last year.
Usually the players’ partners and children attend the game, but the notoriously tough-talking Western Australian premier confirmed only the barest essential people would be allowed to enter the state for the big day. Geelong Cats star Gary Rohan is pictured here with his partner Madi Bennett and his children during a game at the MCG back in May
Mr McGowan was asked on Mix 94.5FM radio about McGuire’s rejection from the state, despite the former Collingwood president claiming he was essential as a commentator and presenter with Fox Footy.
‘I’m trying to protect him from Western Australians, I’m doing it for his own good,’ he first joked, referring to McGuire’s unpopularity in the state due to previous role as Collingwood president.
‘He’s not happy, he wanted to come in, but unfortunately Eddie can’t come, he’s not essential for the game so he has to stay in Melbourne.’
Mr McGowan reassured Western Australians worried the grand final would bring coronavirus into his state that it would be even stricter than in Brisbane last year.
‘Last year when Queensland did it, they had all the wives and girlfriends – we’re not doing that,’ he said.
‘We’re not allowing anyone out of NSW, so none of the football players or their entourage are coming out of NSW.
‘The NSW teams have been based in Covid-free states – we have very strong rules about NSW for obvious reasons.’
Not a single fan from NSW or Victoria will be allowed to attend the game due to WA’s hard border. NSW residents are banned for any reason, and Victorians only with exemptions fitting very strict criteria and must do hotel quarantine.
‘Tourists will be able to come from South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, and potentially Queensland by that time, because they’re Covid-free states,’ Mr McGowan said.
Open borders to those states could prove crucial should Port Adelaide and/or Brisbane make it to the grand final, as it would allow their fans to travel.
Mr McGowan then bragged that the WA Government secured the huge event without paying a cent to the AFL.
‘Queensland paid up to $20 million for it but we haven’t given them any money, we’ve just said we’ll do a Covid-safe game – if you come here we’ll have strong rules and we’re not giving you any money, that’s your choice,’ he said.
‘We drove a pretty hard bargain but that’s the right way to approach it, I didn’t want to hand over $20 million to the AFL.’
While Port and Brisbane fans are likely to be able to travel to the game if those teams make it, supporters of the other four teams still alive – Melbourne, Geelong, the Western Bulldogs and GWS Giants – have no chance due to WA’s hard border.
Mr McGowan joked: ‘I’ll declare a public holiday for the Friday and call an election on the Monday.’
He clarified that he would love to call a public holiday for real – as the day before the grand final is a public holiday in Victoria – but there was not enough notice, but there was already one scheduled for the Monday after.
Dockers and Eagles fans at Optus stadium in Perth (pictured). WA’s hard border means fans of almost all the teams will not be able to attend. The only teams outside NSW and Victoria left in contention are the Brisbane Lions and Port Adelaide Power
McGuire went on Perth radio 6PR to complain that he was shut out, and had two days to get a second application accepted to make it there in time.
‘I applied for a G2G application or a permit to come in to work and cover the grand final, and it was rejected,’ he said.
‘If the Western Australian Police chief says: “No, we don’t think you are essential,” then I cop that and I don’t have any protest whatsoever.
‘I think that I qualify.’
McGuire revealed on Triple M that though his first application for himself only, he also planned to bring along his sons Alexander and Joseph to stay in the same hotel quarantine suite if they were also approved.
‘My two sons, one works for Fox Footy, the other one works for Footy Classified, and because Channel 9 in Melbourne are doing a big Grand Final Eve telethon, there was a shortage of staff that could get in,’ he said.
‘So one of the things we looked at was my two blokes could come with me… the reason why that could work is… that they could stay in the room with me.’
Perth’s Optus Stadium holds a capacity of 60,000 people and was announced as the official host of the footy final this week
Mr McGowan’s border policies, which included a hard border with the rest of Australia for eight months last year, are extremely popular in WA.
A poll at the height of the border ban last year found more than 90 per cent of Western Australians gave him and his border plan a positive approval rating.
Such is his popularity, he has gained the bizarre nickname ‘State Daddy’, after which a special kabab on sale at the stadium will be named, featuring ‘meat chicken, egg, salad, chili sauce and cheese’ with a pint of beer.
‘I’ll be whipping a few up,’ Mr McGowan joked.
WA had three lockdowns, including the six-week national shutdown in March to May 2020. The other two were of less than a week and prompted by one case each.
It remained to be seen if Mr McGowan would apply such a lockdown and ban crowds from the grand final if there were such a small outbreak in the week leading to the game or whether he would change his approach to suit the AFL.
Mr McGowan is in daily slanging matches with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and the rest of the federal government over his refusal to remove border restrictions in line with the national plan.
The hardline zero-Covid premier declared he would not let coronavirus into his state, when his citizens enjoy near-total freedom and are reluctant to give any of it up.
Using combative language, Mr McGowan claims Mr Morrison ‘only cares about NSW’ and that opening his borders would result in hundreds of deaths in WA.
His stance has been widely criticised as unrealistic and he can’t keep Covid out forever, especially with international travel to soon resume.
The AFL Grand Final will be moved to Perth for next month’s highly anticipated event as Melbourne struggles to contain its latest Covid-19 outbreak (pictured are Richmond fans celebrating at last year’s AFL Grand Final)
The marquee clash at Perth Stadium is scheduled for September 25 and is expected to have a twilight start with a capacity of 61,266.
Perth will also host a semi-final this weekend and a preliminary final the following week, plus the Brownlow Medal count which will be shorn of most of its appeal as most players will not be allowed to attend, the grand final teams will be quarantining and their WAGs are banned.
Thousands of fans are likely to also line the streets of Perth for a grand final motorcade of the participating teams.
Mr McGowan said hosting the grand final would be a historic event for the state, and bragged about being able to run in with his extreme rules.
‘We’ve secured this event on our own terms and we’ve ensured that we’ve put in place the very strictest and strongest of protocols to protect West Australians,’ he told reporters.
‘It will be a great spectacle, a great event and showcase what our state has to offer.
‘We’ve run football over the course of the last two years during Covid in which teams come in in a Covid-safe way, it’s managed in accordance with all of the protocols and we haven’t had any problems.’
‘We’ll make sure we continue to do that over coming weeks.’
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan announces the 2021 AFL Grand Final will be held in Perth
Perth stadium estimates tourism associated with hosting the game could deliver up to $10 million to Perth’s hotels, restaurants and bars.
‘The grand final is the most important day of an AFL players’ career and is one of the great days in world sport,’ stadium chief Mike McKenna said.
‘We are looking forward to being able to deliver the very best in-person AFL experience to local fans who have shown time and time again that they love footy and will attend major events of all types.’
WA has a proud Australian Rules football history, having hosted games dating back to the 1880s and produced greats of the game including Indigenous champions Polly Farmer, Barry Cable, Peter Matera and Lance Franklin.