Normally, a Boxing Day crowd of 57,100 for an Ashes Test would be a disaster.
But “normally” hasn’t applied since a few days after March 8 last year, when the MCG hosted the women’s World Cup final, Katy Perry and a record attendance of 86,174.
So there was a sense of nervous excitement among cricket and government officials on Sunday as the MCG welcomed its first 50,000-plus crowd since early May.
As much as everyone wants a bumper crowd at one of Australian sport’s landmark days, Victoria recorded 1608 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday.
Omicron is rampant and masks are mandatory at the MCG while not seated.
But for Melbourne Cricket Club chief executive Stuart Fox, it was a welcome change from months of lockouts and lockdowns – even if the total ultimately fell short of their goal.
“It’s been a hell of a grind for us and just glad today’s here and we’re hoping for good numbers to come through the gate,” he said before play started.
“70,000 we think would be a great result today. We haven’t seen that sort of number through this stadium for some time.
“Just the pain we’ve all been through, the sporting codes, all the venues, I just think this is a bit of a milestone, particularly for Victoria.
“200,000 through these gates (for the Test) would be an amazing effort given the border issues, given the COVID issues, so what a great day for cricket.”
Just days after last year’s World Cup final – the highest Australian crowd for a women’s sporting event – Melbourne’s F1 grand prix was cancelled and the nation went into lockdown.
The last two AFL grand finals have been played interstate and crowds at the Boxing Day Test against India a year ago were capped at 30,000 per day.
Apart from last year, this was the lowest Boxing Day crowd since the 1990 Ashes Test, which only attracted 49,763.
This year’s Anzac Day AFL clash attracted a year-high attendance of 78,113, but from mid-July all games at the MCG had no crowds because of Melbourne’s most recent lockdown.