One-off or the way of the future? What to make of the night Grand Final

Reviews for the AFL's historic first night Grand Final came thick and fast on Saturday night.

When both teams emerged from the tunnels to kickstart the second half, it was fourth among Twitter's trending topics.

The event -- centred around a roll call of contemporary Australian artists -- passed the eye test, but was it really as successful as many hoped, and would the AFL really part with more than a century of tradition and move the game permanently to under the bright lights?

In order to full analyse just that, it's important to remember the Grand Final is a spectacle, and that is exactly how it should be viewed.

There's a reason why Victoria holds a public holiday to precede football's biggest day and a fair majority across the country also stop to tune in. The sheer grandeur of the match has elevated itself -- not entirely beyond the game in the same sense the half-time show outshines the Super Bowl -- but certainly to a level where it exists for more than just the four quarters on the field.

Saturday night gave us a new lens to view and experience the occasion and in all, it was a mixed bag. Many of the spectacle's drawbacks can be separated into either camp - was it because the game was at the Gabba or, was it because it was at night?

In a perfect world, the decider would have been played at the MCG. But of course, it wasn't, and because of it, the game lacked the pizzaz seen in years gone by down south.

That lack of atmosphere may also have been a result of the horrid rain which both literally and metaphorically dampened the build-up. Live sites across the city became baron by the time the rain started in the early afternoon and those sites, as well as the nucleus around the Gabba, never recovered fully.

The other main drawback to the game, and a direct result of the new timeslot, was the enormous wait throughout the day for the first bounce. It wasn't awful but it was certainly different, and it was definitely noticed.

Not many other dates on the football calendar are as anticipated as the Grand Final and because of it, the day has become ritualistic. When that is changed, in this instance delayed by four hours, the outcome is noticed and it ruffled a lot of rusted-on fans.

The entertainment, whether you care about it or not, matters, and this year's production was better than most in recent memory. Even 2017's entertainment by the Killers fails in comparison.

Simply put, the entertainment after dark was a big win and fans certainly noticed that too.

When the first acts kicked off the fun, the mood was set and it only got better from there. By half-time, it was Sheppard's turn to parlay in the excitement, the 29,767-strong crowd was rocking. Visually, it was the best in a long time. The lights, the wristbands, the fireworks and the music selection all helped to establish a new benchmark in Grand Final entertainment.

In the end though, the decision rests with the AFL. Assuming the world, or at least Australia, returns to normalcy post-COVID-19, the Grand Final will return to the MCG next year - as it deservedly should be, but the real choice lies in whether the night Grand Final becomes the new norm.

There are obvious benefits to both, and after experiencing both firsthand in back-to-back years, it's genuinely hard to split. A night Grand Final opens up so many more opportunities for the league in growing a spectacle. Should it decide to permanently shift the fixture though, it risks both alienating a core demographic of their audience and forgoing years on years of tradition.

Is it that all worth it just for some flashy lights when the main crux of the marvel is the game itself?

Does the lack of pizzaz in this year's game stem from the timeslot or because of the location?

Did it even work? Well, yes, the entertainment, as well as the game itself, worked superbly, and the league will surely entice the idea after a successful foray the first time around.

Of course, we haven't experienced a night Grand Final at the MCG yet, and I suspect this discussion would be vastly different if we had.

Either way, the 2020 AFL Grand Final was unique. Its location did have its drawbacks, but Brisbane and its fans certainly put on a show. It's a proud moment for the city and its people who held their own in such an important occasion for many across the country.

Now, having experienced a night Grand Final live, even though it was genuinely superb, I think the game is best served on a Saturday afternoon.

Regardless, isn't Dustin Martin the main entertainment anyway?