How to put some real heat into the NAB Cup

Damo Roar Guru

By Damo, Damo is a Roar Guru

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    Scott Watters is right to be asking for the AFL to review their position on playing games in extreme heat.

    Watching his charges running around needlessly in the high 30s in the harsh Adelaide sun must have been not only frustrating for him but deeply concerning.

    Were it a freak heat wave in the middle of the season, perhaps he might not have been so vocal. The AFL can control many things, but not the weather.

    Were it a finals match in September he would certainly have kept his mouth shut. Who wants to be the coach complaining about the weather when his team is playing finals?

    But this last game was neither of these; it was a pre-season game. Not for points, not for prestige or glory, but an excuse for the AFL to take advantage of a near vacant slot in the sporting calendar.

    In the end the February heat is just another easy criticism to lump on the AFL and their underwhelming pre-season model which, every year, cops more criticism than praise, and more suggestions for improvement than expressions of support.

    Watching the highlights of Sunday’s match you would swear the game was an internal trial session for all the spectators who showed up. The heat and the lack of meaning in the contest would have put most off, which is a shame, considering how exciting the NAB Cup should be.

    Young players, raw recruits, newly traded superstars, we should all be excited about the NAB Cup. Instead, most footy fans seem to look forward to it till it’s here, then remember it doesn’t actually mean anything.

    Personally, I think the AFL need to hire Cricket Australia’s marketing team, specifically the mob behind the Big Bash League. These guys and gals could make the NAB Cup the summer spectacle it should be.

    In the past I admit to being fairly critical of the BBL and its huge hype for little return, but credit where credit is due, they sell tickets, they have bums in seats, and they have a spectacle. The NAB Cup does not.

    This new marketing crew should then implement some very simple changes designed to make the punter forget the comp means nothing, and instead just enjoy the show.

    Firstly, all games should be played under lights. Get the families in. Let them watch the footy in comfort on a late summer’s night, not a hot February afternoon. And stop the players risking hyperthermia and potential muscular deterioration

    Secondly, they should actually build up the hype. Three things the NAB Cup and BBL already have in common are young stars of the game, shorter formats and big scores. These should be rammed down the public’s throat! No one watches T20 for the cricket, they go for big scores and a shorter game. They can take the kids, have a laugh and get them to bed early.

    Thirdly, prizes. Cash giveaways to fans who mark the ball behind the goals, half-time fan involvement in… I don’t know, kicking a long bomb goal for cash NBA style. Prizes for the best dressed fan, and so on.

    I know it’s not traditional, but it’s what people enjoy. Everyone’s still in summer sports mode (makes sense, it’s February for goodness sake) so give them summer sporting tropes to keep them entertained and distract them from the fact that the footy isn’t really that much chop.

    Fourthly, make all games the same three-versus-three format until the grand final. I can already tell that this suggestion won’t be popular, but it allows for short games, more diversity and, from the clubs’ point of view, greater chances to experiment with players and potential combinations.

    The fans can watch three different games of footy in less than two hours, families can take their kids to see three teams in one sitting, and the older fans can always hit the bar for a while if they hate the other two teams running around. It’s also unique amongst Aussie sports, therefore a great sales point.

    Lastly, bring back the pre-season jersey. I doubt the AFL can actually ordain this, but they can certainly encourage it. Let’s see some like from the past, the really memorable ones – the Hawthorn blue with diamonds number, the Port Adelaide lightning bolt, the Bulldogs’ all-red number from last pre-season.

    These strips divide fans, infuriate the oldies and, most importantly, appeal to the collector and the young fan alike. St Kilda do a great job with coming up with new jumpers every season, and North Melbourne had some genuinely good ones in seasons past.

    Let’s bring back a talking point of the pre-season, and give a new look to a new-look format.

    The NAB Cup or pre-season might never mean anything to the ardent fan. It’s just an excuse to give the kids a go. Sure… But if you’re going to have a competition in summer, and ask people to come, I say go all the way – make some cash out of the experience, and get some new young faces through the gates.

    After all, it doesn’t actually matter – the real footy starts soon enough.

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    The Crowd Says (13)

    • Roar Guru

      February 19th 2013 @ 5:57am
      The_Wookie said | February 19th 2013 @ 5:57am | ! Report

      The problem with making all games 3v3 is it takes the practice matches out of the preseason for far too many clubs. You cant go into a full season have played these mini matches for a month prior.

      • Roar Guru

        February 19th 2013 @ 9:19am
        Redb said | February 19th 2013 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        Its only the first round of the NAB Cup that a short format is used. It reverts to normal length games after that with the usual tinkering of the rules.

        • February 19th 2013 @ 9:46am
          Cameron said | February 19th 2013 @ 9:46am | ! Report

          I think Wookie knows this redb, he is simply responding to the writer’s suggesstion of making all nab cup games bar the GF 3×3.

          I don’t mind the suggesstion to make all games night games. It would be a novel solution to the heat problem. The heat in Adelaide on Sunday had an obvious impact on the crowd number. Seeing virtually no one turn up for a derby was crazy. A night fixture would have been much better to attract a crowd.

          Don’t mind the idea of marks in the crowd being rewarded cash prizes either. Who would’nt try to catch that ball when there’s money on offer!?

          • Roar Guru

            February 19th 2013 @ 9:59am
            Redb said | February 19th 2013 @ 9:59am | ! Report

            Ahh right, misread it. 🙂

      • February 19th 2013 @ 9:36am
        TC said | February 19th 2013 @ 9:36am | ! Report

        Yeh, full games here on in.

        I actually like the format, and fits in with the 18 team comp, the three way first round of matches is a nice way to kick things off. Coaches get to look at two other clubs at once, get to play a lot of players for half a game, I think it works well.

    • February 19th 2013 @ 8:57am
      Brian said | February 19th 2013 @ 8:57am | ! Report

      I actually don’t mind the NAB Cup now because it is trial games. Twenty years ago it was serious. Ten years ago it was a problem because it was semi-serious and half a joke. Now its become full trial games I think that works well because everyone knows nothing really gets started until Round 1. The NAB Cup irrelevance helps build excitement towards Round 1.

    • Roar Rookie

      February 19th 2013 @ 10:35am
      Reccymech said | February 19th 2013 @ 10:35am | ! Report

      The traditionalist in me, and being an armchair Coach, would like the format to be full games, thereby, getting the ‘match fitness’ into the players, prior to the Home & Away season. However, (there’s always a however) I am aware that the tempo and pace that the modern game demands would be, and is unacceptable due to the length of the Home & Away season and this ‘Pre-Season’ comp being played at a time of the year that is still considered Summer and the ensuing games being played, ie as Damo has highlighted.

      I don’t know if I’m a fan of what has been outlined in the article regarding the ‘theatratricals’ of getting bums on seats, to me this is the thick end of the wedge, and that commercial aspects will overtake the actual game itself (if it isn’t already). I know it’s a long bow but it could lead to some sorta ‘Superbowl’ of footy.

    • February 19th 2013 @ 10:38am
      Timmuh said | February 19th 2013 @ 10:38am | ! Report

      Bring back the knockout format.
      Rewards for staying in the competition – play under lights on AFL gronds, closer to AFL rules. All teams knocked out play in regional centres, might get day games, and play with the more experimental of the experimental rules.
      That gives some incentive for staying in the comp, and the knockout format makes the games more interesting. It may need qualifiers for the sides that finished low on the ladder the previous year, but they need the extra practice.

    • February 19th 2013 @ 12:52pm
      JamesP said | February 19th 2013 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

      Just play all the games at night – simple. Better ratings. better crowds, better weather (it may still be stinking hot but not as bad when sun is setting.

      3v3 is OK to start the first round with an 18 team comp.

    • February 19th 2013 @ 11:36pm
      Soccerlogic said | February 19th 2013 @ 11:36pm | ! Report

      “I think the AFL need to hire Cricket Australia’s marketing team, specifically the mob behind the Big Bash League” BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! Are you serious!? BBL crowds, TV ratings and interest levels nose dived after the first season! NAB Cup needs substance, not gimmicks!

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