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You’ve likely heard the term ‘Gather Round’ over the past few weeks. And you’ll hear it a lot more this week, with the aforementioned round to be played from Thursday to Sunday. But what exactly is it, and what’s happening with the two WA teams:
What is Gather Round?
Gather Round is essentially “a festival of footy” with all 18 clubs headed to South Australia with all nine Round 5 AFL games scheduled to be played in one city, Adelaide, over the course of an extended weekend/round.
It’s a first for the AFL, mimicking the ‘Magic Round’ concept which has been a hit in the NRL since 2019 whereby all games in a round get played in one location, Brisbane in that instance. The NRL actually stole the concept off England’s Super League which originally played a ‘Magic Weekend’ in Cardiff in 2007 and repeated it on an annual basis in different cities, as a means to promote rugby league (which isn’t as popular as soccer/football in the UK) to the general public.
The AFL is hoping to use Gather Round similarly to promote and celebrate the code like rugby league did in the UK and the NRL. The concept proved a huge hit in the NRL with big attendances at games, but also as a tourism drawcard, attracting travellers from interstate for the rare opportunity to watch numerous games over the course of one weekend. That’s been helped by Government of Queensland funding, partly to drive that tourism.
The SA Government actually won the rights to host the first-ever Gather Round, beating out the NSW Government with their bid. The AFL hopes to put on more than just nine games, with fan activations (including a 150m long zip line across the River Torrens) and family-friendly events around the footy, plus bands playing before games including The Veronicas and Peking Duk to create a unique experience. It coincides with school holidays too.
So how does it work?
In terms of timing, the nine games will roll out similarly to most other rounds, with a Thursday night game, two Friday games, three Saturday games and three Sunday games staggered. There’s two double-headers (back-to-back games) at Adelaide Oval on Saturday and Sunday, with Essendon playing Melbourne at 3:40pm local time, followed by Port Adelaide facing the Western Bulldogs at 7:20pm local time.
On Sunday, Geelong play West Coast from 12:40pm local time, followed by Collingwood against St Kilda at 4:20pm local. Fans attending get a ticket for both games. Six of the nine Gather Round games will be played at the 53,500-capacity Adelaide Oval, starting off with home side Adelaide facing Carlton, who always have good traveling support.
Two of the other three games will be played at the suburban Norwood Oval, which holds 15,000. Freo will play Gold Coast there on Friday afternoon. The other game, between North Melbourne and Brisbane, will be held 45 minutes out of town in Mount Barker (a growing town of an estimated 40,000) in the Adelaide Hills, with some local council funding helping improve their facility with lights, an AFL-standard surface and temporary stands. That game is one of five that have sold out already!
What’s with the name?
It has split opinions to be sure. In essence, it’s a pun about people flocking to one place, selected after the AFL received submissions from supporters. Among the other fan ideas were United Round, AFL Roadshow, Footy Fiesta, The Big Show, Family Round, Connection Round, Roving Round, Premiers Round, The Grape Escape, Hanger Round, Round Five!, AFL Mega, Celebration Round, All-in Round, Magnetic Round, Destination Round, Fanatics Round and Festival of Footy.
But I want to watch my team at Optus Stadium this weekend?
Don’t worry, it’s only a one-off and Gather Round is an additional round on the normal 22-game 23-round home-and-away season, thus the 2023 season actually goes for 24 rounds. As a result, if you’re a Fremantle or West Coast member, you’re not missing out on a home game. You’ll still get 11 home games.
How are Fremantle and West Coast looking for Gather Round?
Fremantle will play Gold Coast on Friday at Norwood Oval at the awkward timeslot of 3:10pm WST. It’s a bit of a must-win for the Dockers too, sitting 1-3 after four rounds, coming up against another side who are struggling with the Suns sitting 17th, also with a 1-3 record. The Dockers played the Crows away last Saturday and opted to stay in Adelaide all week, so it’s been a 2020-style mini-hub for Justin Longmuir’s men, hopefully to iron out some kinks.
The injury-hit Eagles play on Sunday against reigning premiers Geelong (11:10am WST), who re-discovered some form with an 82-point demolition of Hawthorn on Easter Monday after losing their opening three games of the season. That looks a tough one for West Coast, but at least they don’t need to play the Cats at Kardinia Park where they’ve copped some pastings in the past. The Eagles play Port away in the following round but will return home between games, unlike the Dockers.
Gather Round 2023 Fixtures
Thursday April 13
Adelaide Crows v Carlton, Adelaide Oval 5:40pm WST
Friday April 14
Fremantle v Gold Coast Suns, Norwood Oval 3:10pm WST
Richmond v Sydney Swans, Adelaide Oval 6:10pm WST
Saturday April 15
Brisbane Lions v North Melbourne, Summit Sport and Recreation Park, Mt Barker 11:10am WST
Essendon v Melbourne, Adelaide Oval 2:10pm WST
Port Adelaide v Western Bulldogs, Adelaide Oval 5:50pm WST
Sunday April 16
Geelong v West Coast Eagles, Adelaide Oval 11:10am WST
GWS Giants v Hawthorn, Norwood Oval, 1:20pm WST
Collingwood v St Kilda, Adelaide Oval, 4:40pm WST
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