By Cheryl Critchley, AFLFA press officer.
It was back to the future when Carlton and Richmond opened the AFL season at the MCG.
Pies and chips cost just $4 and home team Carlton dusted off its infamous hovercraft, not seen at games for about 15 years. We even had fireworks – literally.
More than 83,000 fans packed the MCG for the Easter Thursday clash, which was 20,000 more than their round 2 clash last year when fans disgruntled with the new variable ticketing system refused to turn up.
This year the MCC has reduced a range of food prices with pies, hotdogs and chips all $4 - Etihad has also cut some prices and has $3 pies on Sundays - and the AFL has promised a more fan-friendly experience.
The opening game certainly had plenty of entertainment, but most of it was off the field.
Captain Carlton made a big entrance on the club’s hovercraft and a fireworks display greeted Blues players as they ran on to the ground. In a move that upset some traditionalists, the electronic fence ads flashed with bright pulsating ads and “We are the Navy Blues” slogans.
It didn’t help Carlton on the field, however, with Richmond skipping away to a 27 point win after a slow start. The atmosphere was terrific, with Tiger fans gaining momentum – and boosting noise levels – as they began to control of the match.
It was brilliant to see such a big crowd back at the ‘G after a shocking year for fans in 2014 that saw only three 80,000+ MCG crowds, including the Grand Final. After just one game in 2015, we are already a third of the way there.
Things are certainly looking better for diehard fans, with cheaper food, kick to kick at some games and a more family-friendly fixture minus those unpopular Sunday and Monday night games.
Clubs also appear to be making a bigger effort to entertain patrons. Richmond was not the home team, but still had an area near the Punt Rd oval set aside for activities and a player meet and greet.
It all made for an exciting spectacle, but there was a down side. Unless we sat at the top of level 4, those without reserved seat memberships had to pay through the nose. My 16-year-old daughter and I coughed up $95.60 to sit on level 1 ($50 adult, $43 concession and $2.60 ticket fee).
Essentially we still have variable pricing, with up to nine categories per game. The main difference this year is no fully ticketed matches apart from Anzac Day, and home clubs controlling ticket categories and prices.
Some reserved seats are even more expensive than last year and fans will pay up to $95 at Port Adelaide home games. Clubs may offer ticket deals for low-drawing games, but they clearly hope we will pay a premium for big games.
Thousands copped expensive prices for the Carlton-Richmond game. We’re all champing at the bit in round 1 and this game is traditionally a huge drawcard. But will we do so for lesser games?
Time will tell.