Perth and Optus Stadium put on a show for the 2021 AFL Grand Final. Image: Steve Allen @ScubaStv

Almost a week after the showpiece event, Marnie Cohen, a footy mad Melburnian who now lives in Perth reflects on her first interstate Grand Final.

When I moved from Melbourne to Perth in March 2021, I was already planning a return home for the Grand Final.

Just three days prior to relocating, I attended my first AFL game since the 2019 Preliminary Final between Richmond and Geelong and I saw my beloved North Melbourne in the flesh for the first time since round 22 that same year.

After what Victorians endured in the second half of 2020, I thought there was no way we would lose a second straight Grand Final.

When I watched nearly 80,000 footy fans flock to the MCG on ANZAC Day, I thought there was no way Victoria would lose a second straight Grand Final.

But the good times came to an abrupt end.

COVID eventually found its way back into Victoria.

The state was plunged into a record sixth lockdown and the longer it was extended, the more I let my mind wander.

Could it be that the Grand Final would be moved away from the MCG once again? And it could it be that it makes its way across the country to WA?

On August 30, 2021, our dreams became a reality.

The first-ever AFL Grand Final at Optus Stadium was announced and the rush was on to snag the hottest ticket in town.

While I was hurting for my friends and family back in Victoria, I couldn’t contain my excitement. As a mad footy fan, I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in Finals action once again.

And I wasn’t the only one who was getting into the Grand Final spirit.

The energy around Perth during the fortnight leading up to the main event was infectious.

We were amongst the lucky 60,000 fans who secured tickets. As was my colleague Dee, who along with her husband and three kids, is a mad Dogs supporter.

Her excitement ahead of the big day was infectious. While I was happy with the prospect of either a Dees or Dogs premiership, it was hard not to ride the highs with her.

And of course, the peak was Grand Final morning.

There is nothing like waking up on the morning of Grand Final day, playing Up There Cazaly full blast on repeat and soaking in every moment leading up to the opening bounce.

Although I wasn’t sure what to expect, I knew we could expect an epic spectacle.

Having attended the Dreamtime Game at Optus Stadium earlier in the season, I knew what Perth was capable of.

Marnie Cohen and partner Luke soaking up the atmosphere at WA’s AFL Grand Final. Image: Supplied

And it lived up to my expectations.

Exceeded them, even.

The twilight spot was sensational. I can understand the day would’ve dragged on for those in the East. I know it did for me in 2020 and spending the day in lockdown didn’t help.

But the energy around the Stadium was just electric.

Everyone was elated to be there. Each person in Optus Stadium felt like the luckiest person alive.

The entertainment was simply but beautifully executed and complemented by the majestic fireworks display.

It wasn’t quite like anything I had experienced at a Grand Final before.

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And to top it all off, the game was just outstanding… and it’s not often you can say that about a 75 point blowout.

In the days since, I have spoken to a number of family members and friends about the event.

Not surprisingly, the main question on everyone’s lips was “how did it compare to a Grand Final at the G?”

And I just can’t put my finger on it because there were so many elements about Saturday’s event that were different.

Daylight v Twilight, Optus Stadium v MCG

WA pulled out all the stops to mount a great argument for a travelling Grand Final.

It was special and I was honoured to be there.

But maybe one reason that it was so special is that there’s a real possibility that it may not happen again.

That I was part of one very special day in the game’s history that may not repeat itself.

Regardless of whether the Grand Final returns to WA in the future or not, I know how honoured I was to be part of it.

And will hold the memories close to my heart for many years to come.

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