How to improve the NAB Cup

11 Have your say

Matt Priddis represents the Eagles (Slattery Images)

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The AFL’s NAB Cup pre-season competition is good, but why isn’t it great? The current system, as part of round one, has a round-robin system where there are three teams and three games in one day/night.

Each team plays each other once and has a rest during the other game. Each game only lasts for the equivalent of an AFL half.

During round two and three each team plays another team once, in a traditional game, with half the games played in rural areas of Australia and the others at traditional AFL venues.

During round four the same structure applies, except that the two-top finishing teams on a mini-ladder – which records all games played prior to the round 4 of the NAB Cup – play-off in the NAB Cup Grand Final.

The AFL have had a pre-season competition since 1988. Prior to 1988, the then-VFL had a night series competition running from 1977-1987. This was mostly a mid-season competition, but did feature during the pre-season as well. At times it featured teams from the WAFL, SANFL and state and territory teams. It was mostly a knock-out series but it did feature qualifying rounds.

Prior to 1977, there was the first night series competition, which operated during the finals series of the VFL and featured all teams that didn’t qualify for the finals. It was purely a knock-out series, and it operated from 1956-1971.

The pre-season competition has come a long way since it was first began 1988, but it still needs work.

The AFL are very keen to keep it running and so are the clubs and players.

The players use it to start to prepare for the season and cement a spot in the final 22-team squad. The teams want it so that they can get things moving again and trial young players. And the AFL want it to trial new rules and reach out to communities around Australia, along with the Australian Post Community Camps.

The triangular format is a dud, as it isn’t fair. Either way teams are going to be disadvantaged.

If you play the first and second game, your body won’t be able to reach its peak in the second game and will be unable to develop any kind of momentum and motivation. If you play first and third, you’ll be able to have a break and be fresh for the third game (this is ideal). If you play the second and third game, you will suffer the same problems as playing the first and second games.

So my conclusion to the triangular format is scrapping it. It fits well into the calendar, by having 3 games over the weekend, but that’s it. Why not have the same format as rounds 2 and 3?

I propose a few alternatives.

Proposal #1

Exhibition round – two or three games played overseas, prior to the beginning of the NAB Cup. Scores don’t contribute to NAB Cup results.
Round one – Nine games from around Australia
Round two – Nine games from around Australia
Round three – Nine games from around Australia
Round four – Nine games from around Australia
Final round – teams are listed on a mini-ladder. This round is essentially the finals round. The team that finishes first plays the second ranked team; number three plays number four; and so on until 17th plays 18th.
In total, not including the final round, there are 36 games, 18 of which must be played in rural areas (grounds/towns that don’t host AFL games).

Proposal #2

Exhibition round – two or three games played overseas, prior to the beginning of the NAB Cup. Scores don’t contribute to NAB Cup results.
Round one – Nine games from around Australia
Round two – Nine games from around Australia
Round three – Nine games from around Australia
Round four – Nine games from around Australia
Round five – Nine games from around Australia

Of these games, 20 – 22 must be played in rural areas (grounds/towns that don’t host AFL games). There is no NAB Cup Grand Final. Instead the team that finishes first on the mini-ladder wins the pre-season competition.

The teams that each team play is based on the previous year’s AFL ladder.

Originally, I thought that the top six, middle six and bottom six could be put together and they will only come up against each team in their “group”.

But my second thought was that teams want to play the better teams as well, to see where they are at. As such, I’ve decided to keep the “groups but change who are in them.

Group 1:
1st, 4th, 7th, 10th, 13th, 16th

Group 2:
2nd, 5th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th

Group 3:
3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th, 15th, 18th

These formats last the same amount of time as this year’s Cup. The exhibition games are an added extra, for supporters to get their footy fix a week earlier. Furthermore the AFL can use them as expansion-type games.

It’s not a huge change, but it’s more structured and can work well. The AFL can capitalise on the TV ratings and can also give rural Australia a taste of AFL football.

The latest 2014 Melbourne Cup news, field details and information can be found here.
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