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AFL Grand Final: COVID-19 has changed the way Victoria celebrates biggest day on sporting calendar

What a difference a year makes.

A year ago, on the eve of AFL Grand Final day, Victorians were fine-tuning their plans for the clash between Richmond and Greater Western Sydney.

And as the one-sided affair blew out, thousands left BBQs and gatherings to celebrate in the streets of Richmond where parties went well into the night.

But this is no ordinary year – a message Premier Daniel Andrews has gone to great lengths to get across to Victorians.

On Thursday, as it was revealed police will employ the use of drones to spy on the backyards of Victorians in an effort to stamp out GF day parties, the Premier encouraged people to call the Police Assistance Line and dob in wrongdoers.

“Some people look down their nose at ‘dobbing in your neighbour’,” he told reporters. “Well. No neighbour has the right to do the wrong thing.”

Richmond fans celebrating in Swan Street in 2019. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

Assistant Police Commissioner Luke Cornelius went a step further on Thursday afternoon, warning Victorians they will be fined if they get “caught in the moment” on Saturday afternoon and evening.

“We’ll be setting the tone in Swan Street, (Richmond), in Geelong, right across Melbourne and Victoria,” he said.

He warned the chief health officer’s directions will be enforced and that a large number of police will be out asking questions.

“Groups of no more than 10. Socially distanced. Wearing a mask if you’re not eating and drinking. No further than 25km from your home. Anyone who turns up to any location can expect police to ask them, ‘Who are you? Where are you from? Where do you live?’

“If there are more than two households, you’re in breach. If you’re not maintaining social distancing you’re in breach. And if you’re in breach, you can expect to be the subject of enforcement.”

He said police could not “cut people slack because they got caught up in the moment”.

“We owe it to people who are doing the right thing to ensure people who don’t follow the rules are held to account,” he said.

Police have warned they will crack down hard on celebrations this weekend. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday warned Victorians not to have people at their homes to watch the match – a big ask for a sports-mad city. He said the risk of transmission was too great and that Victoria had come too far to have setbacks.

“Grand Final, fantastic day, important day, don’t go to your mate’s place,” he said.

“Now, the Grand Final is very different this year, very different for obvious reasons, and while I know that many people would normally spend time with family and friends to celebrate that day, whether their team is in the Grand Final or not, it is a big part of who we are.

“But your household and only the members of your household, that is how Grand Final Day has to be. You cannot have friends over. Into your home. You cannot pretend that it is over because we all desperately want it to be.

“As important as it is, in a cultural sense, in a very passionate way, for every single football fan across our state, it is not worth risking all that we have done, all that we have built, all that we can do in just a few days’ time by having gatherings that are unsafe.”

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