Southbank snubbed in AFL Grand Final river parade
The state government has rowed back on plans to start the 2022 AFL Grand Final parade in Southbank, in a blow for local businesses.
Despite announcements that the parade would start in Southbank, further investigation from Southbank News has revealed that the traditional event on September 23 — the first in Melbourne since 2019 — will, in fact, start at Swan Street Bridge and disembark at lower Birrarung Marr. Players would then hop aboard cars and travel over William Barak Bridge and around the concourse of the MCG.
The move, which ensures the parade would not come even within 400 metres of Southbank, is a blow for traders on and near Southbank Promenade who would have benefitted from the tens of thousands that flock to the annual Melbourne event held prior to the AFL Grand Final.
This route was also at odds to that announced by the state government when it declared that Southbank would be front and centre of this year’s revamped parade.
“AFL players will travel by boat down the Yarra River from Southbank to Birrarung Marr followed by a motorcade across William Barak Bridge to Yarra Park,” it said in an announcement on August 27.
At the ensuing press conference, AFL executive general manager of customer and commercial Kylie Rogers confirmed this.
“We’ll have boats starting at Southbank, heading down to lower Birrarung Marr,” she said.
But rather than boats travelling eastward as stated, a government spokesperson confirmed that players and coaches would, in fact, start higher up the river at berth number 21 (located near the Swan Street Bridge on Batman Avenue) before travelling west, without reaching Southbank.
Yarra River Business Association (YRBA) executive officer Tim Bracher said there had been anticipation that the parade would start in Southbank and was disappointed with the change.
“Any opportunity to help our businesses pull out of the economic trough is welcome and we were excited about the parade starting [here],” he said.
“I can understand that they have probably altered the route to maximise public viewing space, but in terms of economic benefit, it will do little for Southbank businesses, at a time when they could really do with it.”
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 event started at the Arts Centre and finished at the Treasury Building.
It was thought that the persistent risk of COVID-19 was a key driver behind the move to a river-based parade in 2022, 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.
However, Ms Rogers said this was not the case.
“Not at all. We’re just mixing it up,” she said.
“There’s been five different parade routes over the years, and after two years of not being able to have it in Melbourne we wanted to do things differently and really focus on family-friendly activations, so we thought the Yarra would be a bit of fun.”
And would the river-based event be here to stay?
“We’ll see what happens, but why not?”
The AFL said the parade will kick off at 10.30am on Friday, September 23.
Caption: An artist impression of this year’s AFL Grand Final parade.