Perth hosted more than 55,000 footy fans for a historic Dreamtime clash to remember. 

After announcing that the marquee match of the annual AFL Sir Doug Nicholls Round, between Victorian sides Essendon and Richmond, would be played at Perth’s Optus Stadium for the first time, it took just 17 hours for the game to be deemed a sell-out.

The rate of ticket sales was compared only to a final at the venue, or the visit of English Premier League giant Manchester United in 2019.

“We thank each and every one of those football fans for their support and interest in what is the showpiece game of Sir Doug Nicholls Round,” Kylie Rogers, AFL Executive General Manager Customer and Commercial said in the lead-up to the match.

Optus Stadium CEO Mike McKenna said the event was embraced by the Western Australian community. 

“We said from day one that this event was bigger than football and AFL rivalries – Western Australians embraced the spirit of not just the game, but also The Long Walk and most importantly, the recognition of First Nations people,” he said.

“It was an incredible opportunity for Dreamtime to be contested on land upon which the Noongar people were first inhabitants and in a stadium whose construction was overseen by representatives of the Whadjuk Working Party.”

On game day it was a finals-like atmosphere at the sold-out Optus Stadium, as Western Australian fans embraced the opportunity to be involved in an iconic part of the AFL calendar.

The clash has a history of drawing big crowds, and this year 55,656 fans filled Optus Stadium – a 2021 record for the venue. The all-time record for an AFL game at the stadium is currently 59,608, for the 2018 preliminary final between West Coast and Melbourne.

“We were so delighted that Dreamtime game was going to be in Perth,” Essendon legend Michael Long said, as reported by ABC Radio Perth.

“Across Australia, WA has had the highest number of Indigenous players in the AFL for the last 20 years.

“Through the power of football, we have been able to unite people.”

Before the Round 12 clash, thousands of fans took part in the annual AFL Long Walk across the Matagarup bridge. Started by Long in 2004 after embarking on an historic 650km trek from Melbourne to Parliament House in Canberra to promote Indigenous issues, the event typically takes place in Melbourne as a curtain raiser for the Dreamtime match.

This season marks the 17th edition of the annual Dreamtime game between the Bombers and Tigers and the 15th year the AFL has a dedicated Round to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and their contribution to Australian Football. It is the second time the game has been played away from the MCG.