The NAB Cup is back for 2013, heralding the start of the annual circus that is the AFL.
While your interest may be limited, you should watch as form in the NAB Cup may be a precursor for the 2013 premiership season.
For a while, the NAB Cup was more of a novelty and a joke in football supporters’ circles for its rules, format and the form guide it produced.
The pre-season competition went through a period in the mid-2000s where Carlton and Geelong had big pre-seasons but very poor premierships seasons.
The silly rules that came and went quickly combined with the knockout format devalued its importance.
Now the tinkering has slowed and the format ensures every NAB Cup contest is a genuine practice match. In turn, clubs are more serious about how they go about the pre-season and the results back it up.
Taking out 2005, 2006 and 2007, the last 15 years have proven that teams that do well in the pre-season continue onwards and upwards into the premiership season.
Since 1998, 11 of the 15 teams that won the NAB Cup have gone on to play finals football. Of those 11, four have made the grand final while six have made it to the preliminary final weekend.
The NAB Cup grand final runners-up record is just as impressive. Of the 15 runners-up, 13 have gone onto play finals with four making it to a grand final, and two premiership teams being NAB Cup runners-up in the same season.
The 2012 NAB Cup ladder somewhat supports this theory. If you divide the NAB Cup ladder into a top eight and bottom 10, as in premiership football, the bottom five of the NAB Cup failed to play finals.
Far from being a furphy, a good September campaign can be begun with a good NAB Cup run. Instead of pokey trial matches, the competition is a great rehearsal for the season.
Television coverage coupled with playing at big stadiums gives players a feel or a reminder of what playing premiership football is all about.
While coaches like Scott Watters say they don’t care, secretly all coaches will have a level of angst about what the NAB Cup will show about their squads.
It is where a club’s season can get a boost or fall over in a heap. So while it may not attract all football fans, a good or poor season will likely have its origins in this competition.