Rebecca Purcell, Events Manager, Optus Stadium

West Australians have long harboured a dream of forming their own country and isolating themselves from the rest of Australia.  COVID-19 has seen the dream become a reality with our Premier Mark McGowan now becoming a cult figure around the State for his hard-line approach to border closures, even having a happy hour in his honour at the local pub. The positive and very fortunate position WA finds itself in with very low case numbers and nil community transmission has allowed us the opportunity to host an AFL Hub and become a centre of training operations and matches over a five week period.

To kick start the 10 matches in 22 days, Fremantle, West Coast, Geelong and Collingwood arrived in WA on Saturday 11 July to commence their 14 day quarantine period isolating in their homes or dedicated hotels and living according to the very strict AFL protocols including going without the simple luxuries of walking outside or getting coffee whilst also being COVID tested several times a week. Carlton and Hawthorn have now arrived and we are expecting the Sydney Swans and GWS Giants in the coming weeks.

The Northern Oval at the Stadium has been transformed into a quarantine training facility for use by one of the interstate teams on each rotation.  It is a training facility like no other. Our first two rotations have seen Geelong and Hawthorn utilise the space and the Swans look like they will be joining us next. The teams have been amazing to deal with.  The multiple daily training sessions include the below setup and operation.

  • WA Police (WAPOL) approval required for the setup and operation of the Northern Oval. They even conduct spot checks on the teams and operation!
  • Scissor lifts installed to allow teams to take vision of the training session
  • A total of 850m of temporary fence installed to restrict access to any public accessing the space and maintain quarantine areas
  • Security to patrol the perimeter at all times in use
  • Portable toilets in place for use during the sessions
  • Full deep clean to be undertaken pre and post sessions

Quarantine training was one thing, quarantine match day is a whole new ball game.  After multiple Stadium site visits with WAPOL Deputy Commissioner and the State Solicitors Office, permission for the first match was granted 24 hours prior to Bounce Down.  Under Phase 4 restrictions, Optus Stadium has a capacity of 30,633 including all patrons, staff, players, accredited personnel with the first two rows free and every second row sold. A monumental effort by Kelly and Ticketmaster to build and get the Events on sale. The first four matches, all with attendances over 20,000 patrons, have the highest attendance for live Events in Australia since the Women’s Cricket World Cup Final at the MCG in March.

Ella Marchetti and Blake Lornie-Duguid are in control on the ground during quarantine matches and are doing a fantastic job managing the teams and the extended police overlay.  Police are observing the team adherence to the protocols and our operation at every corner (literally!).  Despite the extensive requirements, there have been a few highlights to date.

  • Collingwood have the most well operated Coaches movement we have seen – Head Coach Nathan Buckley leading by example on this one.
  • A slight panic in the Event Control Room when we thought we lost the Geelong Coaches on CCTV.
  • Tom Hawkins generously providing his shorts to a member of the crowd who he thought needed them more than him!
  • Collingwood team experiencing the full force of passion that comes with a WA crowd and providing some feedback of their own.
  • WA entrepreneurs in full flight setting up a mask selling stall in the Stadium Park.

Optus Stadium is no stranger to media coverage and these Events were no exception with cleaning and crowd behaviour the key focus.

Our pitch invader seemed to be a quality talent for news crews for days after his antics.  The teams could take some lessons from our Security guys on the tackling techniques as they did a superb job bringing him down.  The Magistrate was not backward in coming forward when she said, “What he did was beyond the bounds of stupid, self-indulgent and self-entitled behaviour” and followed up by issuing an $8000 fine and sent him packing back to Victoria.

The COGS cleaning crew have simply done an amazing job not only turning the whole venue around for multiple events but taking on the challenges of ensuring the Match Day Restricted Areas (MDRA) are deep cleaned and sanitised immediately once all quarantine players, staff and officials have left the Stadium.  Cleaners wearing full PPE (surgical mask, full body coverall, safety googles, gloves and shoe protector) access the following areas. These post cleaning measures complement and enhance an extensive and existing post event cleaning and waste management program.

  • Field of play perimeter incl. LED padding, entry gates and railings
  • Goal post padding
  • Interchange bench
  • Medicab
  • Chairs on field
  • Coaches Boxes
  • All team changerooms, warm-up rooms and facilities
  • Officials changerooms
  • Player viewing rooms
  • Coaches lifts
  • Northern Oval – Training ground