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WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt says health of State more important than rights to AFL Grand Final at Optus Stadium

Treasurer Ben Wyatt denies the McGowan Government lost the 2020 Grand Final by refusing to meet the AFL halfway.

The Gabba, as expected, was today named the replacement venue for the MCG by AFL boss Gil McLachlan — given Victoria’s ongoing coronavirus crisis.

But the decision to snub Perth’s Optus Stadium as a back-up venue and for late finals games has drawn criticism.

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“To be honest, this has been one of the longest, drawn-out announcements ever by the AFL,” Mr Wyatt said.

“Whether that was a marketing ploy or a difficulty in making a decision, I don’t know.

“For me it’s been tedious — it’s been like watching a rugby league game.”

McLachlan blamed the WA Government’s hard border stance as the reason behind the decision to nominate Adelaide Oval as the back-up plan.

But Mr Wyatt said West Australians had made a “huge investment” to protect themselves on both a health and economic basis.

“We are all living as close as you can to a normal life. We weren’t going to put that at risk,” he said.

“If the AFL wanted the best stadium in a State that is actually an AFL State, that would have come here.

“In the end, they haven’t. I expect the AFL will turn not one Queenslander into an AFL follower but nonetheless, I’ll be watching it on TV in the safety behind our hard border.”

He rejected suggestions the McGowan Government had made the AFL feel unwelcome by playing hard to get.

“We made it fairly clear I think that we weren’t going to compromise our safety standards around the hard border. I think people understand that,” he said.

“On the flip side, I wasn’t going to throw millions of dollars at the AFL. I think Queensland may have invested some significant money in this. I think that’s the unfair thing to do – we’ve got other priorities with public money at the moment.”

Premier Mark McGowan took to social media to confirm he would not compromise the WA public’s health and safety for the marquee event.

“The AFL could have chosen Perth and worked through our restrictions. It was possible and the option was there,” he posted.

“But we weren’t prepared to compromise our health and quarantine conditions. We also weren’t prepared to put additional money on the table to secure the game – there are just more important things right now.

“I understand some WA footy fans might be a bit disappointed but we’ve been clear all along about our approach.

“No matter how much we may love football, sacrificing the hard border was a line I could never cross. I want to preserve the health, safety and freedoms that Western Australians have been enjoying.”

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