All AFL clubs should make at least five interstate trips

Ben Somerford Roar Guru

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Darren Jolly of Collingwood celebrates a goal during the 2010 Toyota AFL Grand Final replay between the Collingwood Magpies and the St Kilda Saints at the MCG, Melbourne. Slattery Images

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Every year we hear the same gripes about Collingwood not travelling enough when the AFL fixture is announced. Well, with the 2012 AFL regular season draw to be revealed on Friday morning, there’s already some of the familiar grumblings.

The AFL has deliberately leaked parts of their draw for 2012 ahead of the official announcement, including news that the Pies won’t be required to make the long trip to Perth at all during next year’s regular season.

However, what has been overlooked in all this is that Collingwood will actually make five inter-state trips next year.

Indeed, as the AFL becomes more of a national competition with the introduction of Gold Coast and GWS, clubs will need to get used to travelling interstate. As a West Australian, it’s a topic which has long been close to me (pardon the pun).

The fact that West Coast and Fremantle have had to make 10 interstate trips per season in comparison to some clubs who’ve previously only made three, has often seemed incredibly unfair. Ex-Dockers coach Mark Harvey was one who voiced his dissatisfaction with the situation in the past, although his grievances were mostly ignored as there’s no simple solution to the discrepancy.

While the AFL say publicly their number one aim with the fixture is ‘fairness’, they unashamedly admit that ‘maximising crowds’ plays a huge influence and as a result the AFL will always want to schedule the big-drawing Victorian clubs predominantly in Melbourne.

The likes of Collingwood, Carlton or Essendon will never be sent to trial games in Darwin, Tasmania, Canberra or Cairns for this very reason, hence the majority of their fixtures will be in their home state. In 2011, the Pies and Blues made only four interstate trips (Collingwood’s first in Round 14), while the Bombers made five.

However, there is a strong argument that for the AFL’s fixture to actually meet the supposed top criteria of ‘fairness’, then all clubs should be required to have five interstate trips per season. That would be a non-negotiable.

And with 10 non-Victorian clubs in the AFL in 2012, that makes a lot of sense.

Of course, there’s sure to be several other talking points of the 2012 AFL draw, including who faces expected easybeats GWS and Gold Coast twice, thrice or even four times.

According to those who’ve been privy to a glance at the fixtures, Adelaide are the lucky side who get four cracks at the newboys, which should result in 16 points.

On the topic of GWS, there’s also the discussion about the AFL’s newest franchise opening the 2012 season with a stand-alone fixture – up against the NRL’s opening round – where they would face city rivals Sydney Swans.

I’ve previously stated I don’t think the idea is a sound one, but all will be revealed when the AFL makes public the draw on Friday.

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