The AFL has gone from the 1970s to the year 2525 in four days.

From the beer and cigarettes era of recovery to a brave new world on the Gold Coast, this week is the perfect example of how the AFL continues to try to find a balance between tradition and expansion. And it isn’t easy.

While Gary Ablett Jr, to paraphrase LeBron James, “takes his talents to the Gold Coast” — about as far spiritually from footy’s heartland as you can get — the MCG prepares to host a replayed Grand Final, in what might be described as a pleasant anachronism.

And, although I must admit that the drawn Grand Final is one of the most fascinating sport scenarios I’ve ever witnessed, I’m slightly bemused by Andrew Demetriou’s glassy-eyed nostalgia act.

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The AFL supremo has been on the front foot from the moment the siren blew with the scores deadlocked at 68 points apiece. I don’t blame him, since a tied Grand Final hadn’t happened since 1977 and no one really knew how to react.

But Demetriou seized the opportunity not only to explain how the replay would work, but to trumpet the idea that it was part of the very fabric of the game, like the unique oval-shaped ball.

Personally I think the AFL bigwigs — like most of us — were stunned at the result, and although they were properly prepared with a contingency plan, they still weren’t convinced that people would buy the idea of a replay.

So Andy and Co. went the hard-sell route, drawing on the emotions of those who love the game, and going with the “T” word as a balance to all the sensible arguments against a replay.

The problem with falling back on tradition is that so many other traditions have been smashed to bits. Saturday afternoon football is on the way out and Monday night football (an American tradition, I might add) is coming in. Finals “wildcards” are being discussed. Limits may be placed on interchanges.

I admire the AFL’s stand on replaying the Grand Final, but I hope they realize how lucky they are to have these two teams involved. Collingwood with its passionate following and more than 55,000 members, was certain to fulfill its ticket allowance for the second match. St Kilda fans, still hungering for a second premiership, will also be out in force.

But what if this were Brisbane and Port Adelaide? Or Fremantle and Sydney. What would have happened then?

Barring a blowout this Saturday, there’s no doubt in my mind that the replayed Grand Final is going to work. There will be another huge crowd and another enormous TV audience. The AFL will make millions and that’s a good thing for the league, its clubs and supporters.

But in a week where the best player in the game leaves the club he and his famous father both played for, it might make sense for the AFL to realise that times are indeed changing.

When the Gold Coast Suns and Greater Western Sydney finish the 2525 Grand Final on level terms, let’s hope it’s settled on the day.

*Back Page Lead is a sports opinion website that provides sports content to Crikey