GEORGIE PARKER: Gather Round is about more than just footy, it unites families and fans

Georgie Parker
The Nightly
ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 05: A young fan participates in an activation during the Gather Round Footy Festival at Elder Park on April 05, 2024 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/AFL Photos)
ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 05: A young fan participates in an activation during the Gather Round Footy Festival at Elder Park on April 05, 2024 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/AFL Photos) Credit: Morgan Hancock/AFL Photos/via Getty Images

It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting with my 68-year-old aunty who’s come down to Adelaide from Sydney for Gather Round.

She’s wearing her Swans hat that she had signed by half the team at North Adelaide Oval where she said thousands went to watch them train.

We start talking to a family of six from Echuca at the table next to us.

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The kids were wearing their team jumpers.

We had two Hawthorn, a Richmond and a Carlton. “Split family,” I said.

Their dad said he only managed to get one to follow his beloved Blues.

They drove over and stayed in a caravan park and made a trip out of it during school holidays.

“We came last year too, it’s brilliant,” their mum said.

This is Gather Round.

This is the whole point of it.

Three different generations, in different parts of their life, in the same place, for the same thing - footy.

The AFL has a great knack for killing the golden goose though, and if anyone can ruin something, it’s the AFL.

Gather Round can’t leave Adelaide and you’re not looking at it objectively if you think it should.

It ticks every box.

The location, the size, the affordability and accessibility.

And it pays homage to a footy-loving State which, let’s be honest like WA gets overlooked by the ‘VFL’.

This isn’t about Adelaide and Adelaide footy fans though, which is where some people are getting confused when they get up in arms about where Gather Round should be.

This is about getting as many footy fans in one spot as possible.

You need to be looking at this through the eyes of most footy fans and be accessible to as many as possible.

What does that look like?

Well, in the climate of today with the cost of living what it is, most footy fans don’t have the time to be driving across the country to Perth or Brisbane, or the money to be flying to these places for a weekend.

Gather Round needs to be within driving distance of where most fans are, and I’m sorry Perth, that’s not you.

Unfortunately for Perth, what makes the city so wonderful also shoots itself in the foot, and that is its remoteness.

It’s too far, too expensive for where the majority of people who love this game are.

That family from Echuca isn’t spending $5000 on flights alone getting to Perth for a weekend. My retired aunt would be priced out too.

Heck, you’d be hard-pressed to even get everyone working on it to head west given the cost.

So Perth, apologies to you, you’re off the list.

Sydney, it’s too spread out and the buy-in from the locals won’t be there.

What is so great about Adelaide is Norwood Oval is 15 minutes from Adelaide Oval and even the “regional match” is only 35 minutes up the freeway.

Where you stay is where the games are, and you can walk the city in 20 minutes flat.

In Sydney you’re looking at an hour from Sydney Olympic Park to the SCG by train, and walking, forget about it.

So Sydney, you can’t get a look in for this weekend either.

Brisbane is in the same camp as Perth, it’s too far away from the majority of fans in the southern part of the country.

If you can’t drive there and be at the evening match on the same day, it’s not going to work.

It’s also, like Sydney, in NRL territory, and if locals say “footy” and don’t mean AFL, then an AFL round like this probably won’t have the city buzzing.

That’s Brisbane gone then, too.

Adelaide is a city that doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is.

It doesn’t have the best beaches like Perth, it doesn’t have the nightlife of Melbourne or the beauty of Sydney.

But what it does have is a perfect little set-up, and the perfect mentality and attitude to host a weekend like this.

Much like the Fringe festival which they take in their stride, they do it well.

This weekend shouldn’t be about growing the game as such.

Sure, that’s a byproduct because of the success of it, but leave the growth of the game to round zero and the expansion clubs.

Let Gather Round foster some form of tradition, much like the ANZAC Day or Good Friday matches.

Cricket got greedy when it came to the Big Bash, ruining a good thing.

I hope the AFL takes note and knows when it’s done a good job instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. Just enjoy what they have created, because they’ve done this one right.

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