It’s been a year since an AFL men’s game was played in front of Victorian fans and Thursday night’s pre-season match marks another return to normality after the coronavirus hit at the start of last year.
Carlton will take on St Kilda in the AAMI Community Series at Marvel Stadium before the season proper starts in two weeks. The AFLW season has been played in front of fans for several weeks.
“Even the Marvel stadium siren I’ve missed,” said 22-year-old Jeremy Chait, waiting outside the Docklands stadium pre-game. “The sound of that is so good, and just being in the atmosphere I’ve really missed.”
Chait, like thousands of other Victorians, hasn’t seen an AFL men’s match played in person since the league upped and took its 2020 season interstate to play in coronavirus hubs away from Victoria, which was struggling to deal with a deadly second wave.
“It’s a real sense that the virus is nearly over and that we can come back and be amongst all these fans and feel somewhat safe at least,” the St Kilda fan said.
For a community that thrives off the weekly ritual of trips to the footy, the social isolation and hardship of 2020 was been acutely felt by AFL followers, ardent Carlton fan Brett Temple, 35, said.
“The effect of that is that you can’t catch up with your mates, you can’t enjoy meeting new people, or having a drink with people at the pub and enjoying the game,” he said.
“When that gets taken away from you, you sort of get depressed.”