The AFL has become a laughing stock as the annual grand final parade reached a new low on Friday in Melbourne.
The spectacle was moved from Melbourne’s CBD to the banks of the Yarra River and the Yarra Park Precinct, giving fans a chance to wave to players as they floated down the famously muddy river on barges.
The idea — that first emerged during Melbourne’s Covid-19 lockdowns — fell spectacularly flat on Saturday with fans complaining about how far away the players were from where thousands were gathered on the banks of the river.
The parade returned to Melbourne for the first time in three years before Saturday’s grand final between Geelong and Sydney after the 2020 Grand Final was moved to the Gabba in Brisbane and the 2021 Grand Final was moved to Perth.
The parade usually moves through Melbourne’s bustling streets with players on the back of utes, but there was a much more dispiriting site that greeted fans on Saturday.
Sunday Footy Show host Tony Jones was among the first to slam the concept and its execution.
He told 3AW it was a “disaster”.
“I would put this in the same category as Meat Loaf, AFLX and the Batmobile,” he said.
“In 10 years’ time we’ll be looking at pictures of this and using it as a punchline.”
Many other commentators predicted the parade won’t be returning to the Yarra River any time soon.
RSN Breakfast host Adam White posted on Twitter: “The key component of the AFL Grand Final Parade is for the fans to get up close and personal with the players. The idea of requiring binoculars to find your hero from a riverbank isn’t ideal”.
Many fans also complained the players did not complete the full route advertised with some fans barely able to see them before the barges turned back the other way.