Yesterday it was revealed that plenty of AFL clubs like the idea of a ‘wildcard week’ to determine who makes up the final spots in the top eight.
The proposal, which could be in place as soon as next season, would see the four sides that finish between seventh and tenth on the ladder face off in sudden death playoff matches – the seventh-placed side playing the tenth-placed one, while teams eight and nine also do battle – with the winners cementing their place in the finals.
But is the idea any good? The verdict is still out, so we’re going to debate its merits – or lack thereof.
On one side of the argument we have Roar Editor Ben Conkey, who thinks the wildcard idea is rubbish, while our Assistant Editor, Daniel Jeffrey, reckons the sooner we turn the proposal into reality, the better.
As always, we want to hear what you think of the idea, so be sure to add your thoughts in the comments section.
Let’s get to the debate!
For: The wildcard week is a terrible idea
For most of the 21st century, Richmond supporters have endured taunts from their friends about finishing ninth and missing the finals (even if they actually haven’t finished ninth all that often).
If this wildcard idea gets off the ground those jokes won’t work anymore and finishing ninth becomes a good season, especially if you win the playoff match against the eighth-placed side.
While this idea might keep the end of the season exciting, do we really want to start rewarding mediocrity?
I cringe at the possibility of a tenth-placed team having a one-off chance to make the finals after a relatively poor home-and-away record.
Imagine the seventh-placed team having injuries in Round 23 and then losing in that wildcard week after doing all the hard work to make the finals.
It just doesn’t seem right.
Think about how this would have played out with last year’s fairytale run by the Western Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs finished seventh (15 wins and seven losses) and would have therefore played Port Adelaide (ten wins and 12 losses).
Sure, the Footscray boys would have most likely won that game, but I doubt they could have gone another four weeks of finals without that bye week.
A wildcard round devalues the competition.
It’s fine in theory to say it’s almost impossible to win from tenth place, but what if it does happen under this new system?
It won’t feel like a miracle or fairytale, like the Bulldogs’ triumph, it will just feel completely manufactured and fake because the tenth-placed side had no right to be in the finals in the first place.
Against: The wildcard week is an excellent idea
I’ve plenty of reasons for getting behind this proposal. It would add even more excitement to the end of the regular season, it would nullify the unbearable boredom of the dreadful bye week, and it could actually level out the playing field for the sides on the edge of the top eight.
The AFL’s current 23-round season will always favour certain teams at the expense of others; some sides are going to have easier draws than others purely because all 18 teams cannot play everyone else in 22 games of footy.
While we can reasonably conclude that the sides in the top six are always deserving of their place in the finals, regardless of the draw, having the next four sides play off for the right to play in September would ensure all of the top eight are legitimate finalists.
Take St Kilda and North Melbourne from last season, who finished the season eighth and ninth on the ladder respectively. The Kangaroos had qualified for the finals only on percentage, thanks largely to an incredibly soft start to their season. Of their last 12 matches, they won only two.
The Saints, on the other hand, had a more consistent record, with their wins and losses spread evenly over the season. While percentage was the determining factor for who made the top eight last year, a playoff would ensure we have the best eight teams playing finals footy.
Naysayers might point to the injustice of the seventh-best team losing to their tenth-placed counterparts, but if your side can’t beat the blokes who finished tenth on the ladder, they don’t deserve to be playing finals.
Just as importantly, and perhaps even more so, is the wildcard week would nullify the tedium of the bye week. Last year saw a mad dash to make the top four in the last few weeks of the home-and-away season, building up plenty anticipation for the finals, which quickly stalled as footy fans were subjected to a week without a single AFL game.
The wildcard week would give footy fans something to watch that weekend, all the while ensuring we have the best teams playing in the finals.
Plus, it’s one more week of knockout footy. What’s not to love about that?
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So, it’s over to you now Roarers. Is the wildcard week an idea worth persevering with? Or should it be consigned to the scrapheap? Let us know in the comments below!