Written by Bradley Elson
Time for the AFL to get into the modern age.
I have had enough of the AFL and it saying they are steeped in tradition. “We won’t change this ruling or that law of the game because it just doesn’t suit us right now…”
We are one of the only, if not the only national competition in the world that has constant rule changes, not just minor adjustments, but major rule changes that effect the way the game is played. Yet when it comes to the structure of the game, the things that create equity in the league, the setup of how the season runs; the AFL refuse to do anything about it. Perhaps they just don’t want to as they are to afraid or stubborn to listen to the clubs and football public.
There are two or three areas the AFL need to fix, leave the rules alone; wind them back a couple of years and stop tinkering, but I will get to that another day.
The Draw – My God what a shambles every single year! Now 18 into 23 just does not go, I have 3 theories on this and on how to get it to work.
To complete one full round teams have to play each once, so that accounts for 17 games in a season – question then what to do with the other 6 or do we revolutionise the way we run our competition. Compared to the NFL who have their conferences and divisions play only the 16 games in a season then into playoffs. The Super Bowl is still the biggest event in sport every single year and compared to the AFL grand final – arghh don’t get me started. I digress back to it, no one is happy with how the draw is worked out. It is swayed too often with some teams getting “soft” draws compared to others, which can in turn make a big difference to ladder position at the end of the season. To make the top 4 or miss it all can hinge on the subtlety of the draw. The AFL have made a rod for their own back allowing some teams to try to dictate when and who they play. This adds more pressure on the draw to get it balanced. Everyone wants a piece of the big days; Anzac Day, Queens Birthday when you are almost sure to pull a big crowd.
My ideas to make the draw fair are as follows:
Theory One – A bit left of centre and a bit controversial maybe, but from rounds 1-17 every team play each other once. At this point the draw is fair, everyone has played you then make adjustments so you play them. Crows at Adelaide and Power in Melbourne this year opposite the next, play Eagles in WA, Dockers in Melbourne then opposite the next you get the picture. Now I know this isn’t as fair on the interstate clubs, so this needs to be adjusted in the final rounds so they get an extra home game or two. What to do with the final few rounds? Well at this stage of the season there is pretty much no chance for the bottom 6 to make the finals, so if you are in positions 13 -18 goodbye to you. Your season is over, no more percentage boosting to the top teams – you only get to play each other for 5 rounds and fight for the top 3 draft picks by not tanking, and having to win some games against equally bad opposition. The top 12 its tough there is often a mathematical chance a team outside the eight gets in from here but unlikely so i suggest we split the next 12 teams into two lots of 6 also the top 6 from this point are already in finals they don’t miss out history tells us this every single year so teams 1-6 play each again and jostle for their spots and teams 6-12 do the same to see if they can change their spots history again tells us almost never does it happen. That gets us to round 22 and the top 8 play off in the finals if the AFL are so keen to have this stupid bye week in-between then i think those top couple teams have earnt it!
Theory two – Its simple but with two options – 18 teams two divisions of 9 play each other twice in the year one at home one away split the Melbourne teams up evenly leave the interstate teams in each other conference so both Sydney teams are in division A, both Brisbane teams in Division B etc, put Collingwood, Essendon, Calrton, Richmond, Melbourne together then Hawthorn, Geelong, Saints, Kangaroos and Bulldogs together. Top 6 from each division go through to the division finals then the top 3 from each divisional final go through and play in the championship series with the old top 6 method.
Option two with this is to split the top 9 from each season with the bottom 9 a bit like a premier league with relegation and promotion. They play each other twice; home and away which gets to 16 games the bottom 9’s top 4 go into a promotional play off with the top 2 going up to the top league the following year. The top 9 – the 9th team is relegated and teams 7th n 8th play off for final relegation the top 4 – 6 play off for the championship.
Theory three – And possible the simplest of them all is a simple split round over 3 seasons. Each year starts the same play teams 1-18 over the first 17 rounds alternating between home and away each season then for the final 6 rounds of 2 of the years they start again play teams 1-6 and so on and in the third year play the final five teams. It’s not perfect and there will be complaints about some teams travel but overall is closest to fair I believe.
I don’t understand why the AFL is so reluctant to do this, it comes up every year and every year they fail at it. The AFL seem too concerned with making money by rostering games that bring in the biggest crowds and skewing the fixture to suit their hip pockets. They bang on about fairness and equity in the way they do things but something as simple as this they do not touch.
For the sake of our wonderful game its time to make a change!