Despite being the two best teams of the 2020 AFL season, this Saturday’s Brisbane grand final could come down to something entirely out of Richmond and Geelong’s control – the weather.
For the first time, the decider will be played outside of Melbourne, and while the Richmond Tigers defeated GWS Giants last year in 14.9C Melbourne weather, whether the Tigers are able to defeat the Geelong Cats in Brisbane’s when the mercury hits 29C, complete with potential thunderstorms, is another story.
The chance of fatigue is also higher for both teams as the all-important dew point, which usually reaches 14.5 on an October night in Brisbane, could render the teams uncomfortable and the Sherrin hard to handle.
With the added possibility of showers and thunderstorms, whichever team has best adapted to the Queensland season could walk away with the victory, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
Senior Meteorologist Laura Boekel said while Brisbane was well known for its “stormy and sticky conditions” at this time of year, it was the dew point reading that could have the biggest influence on players.
“The AFL world is abuzz about the Gabba dew points making it slippery for players to handle the Sherrin, but it is the mix of heat and moisture that comes with elevated readings that can also quickly fatigue teams, especially ones such as the Tigers and Cats that come from the relatively temperate conditions of Victoria,” Ms Boekel said.
“Dew points can be quite a technical weather reading to explain, but effectively Brisbane tends to see a dew point of about 14.5 in October at 6pm and most people tend to feel comfortable in these conditions.
“Elite athletes running around in warmer and more humid conditions than they are used to could start feeling the physiological effects more than the spectators sitting at the ground.
“These effects will become more pronounced as the dew point rises and the risk of player fatigue becomes a greater risk.
“As the dew point temperature starts to climb closer to 20, which it can in Brisbane in October, conditions can become muggy and people just going around their normal activities can start to feel uncomfortable: elite athletes could suffer even more so.”
While Melbourne can reach similar dew points at this time of year, the corresponding temperature could make all the difference to players.
“The Melbourne dew point reading at 9pm on Saturday – when the AFL Preliminary Final was being played in Brisbane between the Lions and Cats – was 11.2 with an apparent temperature of 11.2 and a relative humidity of 87 per cent. At the same time in Brisbane, the dew point reading was 15.2 with an apparent temperature of 21.9: relative humidity was 68 per cent,” Ms Boekel said.
“The difference in the apparent temperature of 10C between Melbourne and Brisbane highlights why the players would feel more weather-related strain on their bodies in Queensland compared to a game being played in Victoria.
“The Gabba conditions are likely to be very different for the Victorian clubs battling it out in the AFL Grand Final … this year’s finale could take on a definite subtropical feel, especially with the chance of a trademark Brisbane thunderstorm making conditions even more challenging.
“The Brisbane Lions were obviously going to be the team that would have been more acclimatised to any oppressive weather that the Gabba could have thrown their way, but it will be interesting to see if the Cats or Tigers have adjusted to their new hunting grounds after COVID-19 caused them to call Queensland home earlier this year.”