One-off event or new approach? AFL mulls over river parade plans

121 GF Parade Yarra River
121 GF Parade Yarra River
David Schout

The AFL is deep in negotiations to stage this year’s Grand Final parade on the Yarra River, with plans for players to travel down the famous waterway before disembarking to head towards the MCG precinct.

While at the time of publication the AFL had not confirmed where this year’s parade would take place, a source confirmed with Southbank News that Parks Victoria had notified affected businesses that the river would be closed between Princes Bridge and Swan Street Bridge for a period on Friday, September 23.

This measure has suggested that the league’s governing body is serious about a change in route for this year’s parade, rather than floating it as a mere idea.

It is understood that the persistent risk of COVID-19 is the key driver of the shift, with the league desperate to avoid last-minute infections prior to the big day, which Melbourne has missed out on hosting since 2019 due to the pandemic.

The parade is a key date on Melbourne’s events calendar, and gives the opportunity for fans of both clubs to see their idols up close on what is now a public holiday.

Since 2015, the route has seen vehicles (carrying players and coaches) begin at the Old Treasury Building, turning left onto Wellington Parade before making its way on to a stage at Yarra Park.

Prior to 2015, the parade started at the Arts Centre and finished at the Treasury Building.

But the reported changes for this year would completely shake things up.

Fans would likely stand either side of the Yarra River; on the southern side in front of rowing sheds and the Yarra River trail, and on the north side along the wider expanses at Birrarung Marr.

It is understood there are still regulatory hoops for the game’s governing body to jump through on this, however, with safety concerns about the number of people lining the riverbank.

At this stage it is likely the AFL would be looking at the river-based parade as a one-off before returning to the CBD streets in 2023.

However, if successful, it could signal the start of something new.

The league has, after all, changed the route four times already since it was first held on Grand Final eve in 1977.

Co-founder of Southbank-based GoBoat Oliver Swan said the AFL’s idea was a good one.

“Any activation on the river, especially to minimise COVID risks to the players, is a positive thing that can work,” he told Southbank News.

Mr Swan said the City of Melbourne and Victorian Government should look more consistently at the river and the potential it offers.


“I definitely think so. If not, look to do some permanent activations with infrastructure that’s already there to generate life along the Yarra. Not just an events-focus, but if we had some form of light show or permanent fixture at night that brought people down to the river, I definitely think that would have a bigger impact connecting the city to Southbank and driving visitation to the restaurants and other venues along the river.”


This year’s AFL Grand Final will take place on Saturday, September 24. •

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