The entertainment on the pitch can make or break the memory of a grand finale for years to come.
And despite border closures, travel restrictions, a last-minute move to Queensland and the threat of a total cancellation for most of last week, the NRL has found a way to show it knows its stuff. public.
The unlikely pairing of Stafford Brothers, Timmy Trumpet, William Barton, Kate Miller-Heidke and Ian Moss allowed for a good start to the NRL’s biggest night of the season and, even at 75% capacity, the reaction from Lang Park was exactly what the league would have hoped for.
It all started with an attempt to connect with the younger fans
The show opened with a cameo appearance from the Stafford Brothers and Timmy Trumpet – both of whom featured in sweaty Schoolies tents from the late 2000s to the early 2010s.
Recognizing that border closures and travel restrictions limit the options available to the NRL, the organizers’ attempt to kick off the entertainment with a forceful act was not a compromise – but from the crowds in the stadium to the punters watching from with them there was a little hesitation.
In the words of a well-known Queenslander, we “don’t spend time on it anymore” with the Timmy Trumpet / Stafford Brothers segment remaining quite short and sweet.
It only got better from there
Once fans were all trumpeted (which only took a few minutes), the Nunukul Yuggera Aboriginal Dance Company took to the field with a shift in the direction of excitement for what was to come.
Traditional music and dance led star artist William Barton to take the stage with a didgeridoo performance, then he was joined by Kate Miller-Heidke and Ian Moss for a performance of Flame Trees.
It was certainly a change of pace from the introduction of a nightclub, but the crowd quickly warmed up to the classic accompanied by an orchestra on the pitch.
Moss embarked on a rousing performance of Tucker’s Daughter – both the track and the artist, a clear nod to former NRL diehards.
It was all that everyone’s dad / uncle / next door neighbor at a Sunday arvo barbecue could ask for, but it hit the spot.
The 75 percent filled stadium erupted into cheers at the end of the entertainment portion of the evening – a good sign that the performances went rather well.
The NRL did not follow the example of the AFL’s virtual appearances
Last week we saw Mike Brady beaming into Perth’s Optus Stadium from an empty MCG with a prerecorded virtual rendition of the gist of the Up There Cazaly grand finale.
Colin Hay of Men At Work also performed from a California beach, connecting with the crowd through the large screens in the hall.
The NRL decided not to do the same, with Cold Chisel being portrayed by Ian Moss alone instead of any digital attempt to bring the group together minus the hotel’s quarantine bill.
Cold Chisel appeared in the NRL Grand Finals in 2015 – Moss said it was “one of those career moments that we all look to play,” and that it was “an honor” to be asked again.
There was a little moment of screaming
Was it a preprogrammed timing issue? Did someone press the wrong button? Was it just a terrible call?
Either way, Jonathan Thurston’s country recognition was cut short in the middle of the sentence by the introduction of the Australian national anthem, which began while he was still speaking.
The timing issue has not been officially recognized as a mistake, and it is not known if Thurston had more to say.
Several NRL players have already spoken publicly about their decision not to sing the national anthem before games, saying it does not represent them or their families.