FOOTY fans desperate for a slice of the action were denied their chance to watch the AFL’s first interstate Grand Final live at Dromana Drive-In on Saturday.
Proprietor Paul Whitaker said he was “gutted” by the state government’s refusal to allow the live telecast which would have been even more special with fans allowed to attend from up to 25km away.
In the weeks leading up to the big night it seemed the planets were aligning with both the AFL and broadcaster Channel 7 giving him the thumbs up. All that was needed was a nod from the government and the biggest event of the season would have lit up the three screens and entertained a hundred fans.
It wasn’t to be. “At 6:50pm tonight (Thursday), I received the long-awaited call from the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions,” Mr Whitaker said. “We have been derailed by politics.”
He said informal advice earlier in the week that Cabinet’s Crisis Council was favourably inclined towards the drive-in’s Grand Final adventure had been reversed after what he termed the “Cox Plate fiasco”.
“Quite rightly, the public outcry over allowing an elite group of racehorse owners to attend a private running of the plate was overturned,” he said. “But with that the opportunity to screen the Grand Final at the drive-in was ruined. What a joke.”
Probably adding to state government unease were “misunderstandings” which saw a coronavirus positive grade 5 student attend East Preston Islamic College, resulting in two schools being closed and 800 people going into self-isolation – including 83 families.
This was cold comfort to Mr Whitaker. “The drive-in is the most COVID-safe business around,” he said. “What’s more, it would have been a therapeutic outing for so many people to watch their game on Victorian soil.
“We had only one week to go to [a possible] re-opening and the event would have been safe and beneficial to the community.”
Mr Whitaker was refunding the 100 tickets sold late last week, with many people asking him to keep donations made to The Breast Cancer Network Australia, Entertainment Assist and Independent Cinemas Australia Charities.
Reflecting on the knockback he thanked “everyone for their effort, comments and voice”.
“For the politicians involved – [Nepean MP] Chris Brayne especially – thank you for staying with this until the end and having the conviction that it should go ahead.”
But Mr Whitaker the screens will soon light up, with 10 schools booked for graduation celebrations and student movies, a church Christmas show, three nights of Carols by Candlelight and the Peninsula Film Festival.
“Everyone loves the magic of movies on the giant silver screen,” he said.
The magic missing from Saturday night at the drive-in was seeing the Richmond Tigers, 12.9-81 defeat the Geelong Cats 7.8-50 to win their third premiership in four years.