A nine-month AFL season? I’d like to see that

mds1970 Roar Guru

By mds1970, mds1970 is a Roar Guru

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    Fixturing can be tricky at the best of times, but some interesting ideas can come from unlikely places.

    For the AFL it’s hard to produce a fair draw for an 18-team league. Seventeen rounds is too few but 34 is too many, so teams will play some clubs once and others twice.

    Various models have been suggested and rejected, the major flaws being that an equal number of home games for each club can’t be guaranteed and that supporters want certainty when the games will be played before they commit to a membership.

    Geelong midfielder Patrick Dangerfield has come up with a way around the issue. He’s suggested that the current length of the season in terms of minutes played is about right but that it could be spread over more weeks. Instead of having 22 rounds of games with 20-minute quarters plus time-on we could instead have 34 rounds of games with around 13-minute quarters plus time-on.

    The number of minutes played over a home-and-away season would be about the same but the minutes would be spread over an extra 12 weeks.
    Each club would play each other twice and each club would have 17 home games.

    It’s a thought bubble. Nothing will come of it. But, hypothetically, could it work?

    Fatigue in individual games would be less of a factor. With shorter games there’d be less distance run and less wear and tear to the body each week.

    (AAP Image/Ben Macmahon)

    But having to get up 12 more times over a year makes for a long season.

    A 34-week season with four weeks of finals makes almost nine months of competition. There’d be no time for byes, a week off before the finals or any time off. This could possibly be worked around by mandating that each player is limited to 31 or 32 games, requiring the clubs to manage each player’s individual byes.

    Would a suspension be able to be taken as a week off? If so, it may encourage more early guilty pleas and reduce the need for tribunal hearings. If not, there may need to be some flexibility in the rules for a player who the club was planning to rest in the last round but who gets suspended after the penultimate weekend.

    For the non-Victorian clubs there’s a lot more travel with an extra six interstate trips. Even Victorian clubs would have eight interstate trips, not counting matches in Tasmania or home games played away.

    With no time for a week off to recover, it would probably be the end of the Gold Coast vs Port Adelaide China trip. But with more home games on offer there’s more opportunity to take games to new domestic markets without reducing the number of home games currently played on the home ground.

    Greater Western Sydney could play a couple more in Canberra, North Melbourne in Hobart et cetera. Maybe some other regional centres could be considered for games.

    (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

    From a media perspective it would be a gold mine. Extending the season to nine months would guarantee the AFL would dominate the news cycle for longer.

    With each game all over in two hours, games could be scheduled so there are never two games on at the same time. Currently the AFL viewing audience is split when there are concurrent games, but that wouldn’t happen anymore.

    Further, with nine months in the season, then trades, the draft and the draw to come, that’s most of the year covered publicity-wise.

    But there are plenty of logistical reasons why it will never happen. Access to venues is the big one.

    For a 34-round plus finals season we’re probably looking mid-February to mid-November. But that would require cricket to give up access to the grounds during that time.

    They’d probably give up October. The only cricket in October is the domestic one-day competition, which is played on suburban grounds in Sydney. The cricket grounds the AFL use sit empty in October, so I can’t see why there’d be any objection to the AFL moving into October.

    But by November the Sheffield Shield is on and the Tests are looming. The cricket pitches need to be in the grounds by then, and cricket uses the grounds until late March.

    If the Brisbane Lions were to make a home preliminary final, it wouldn’t give the Gabba much time to get a pitch prepared for the first Test of the summer.

    (Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

    Such a long season would affect preseason schedules. Patrick Dangerfield acknowledges that.

    Currently the preseason starts in mid-November. After about a month the players take a break for Christmas before restarting again in January.

    With the season finishing in mid-November the players would need a break, so preseason training wouldn’t start until after Christmas. There’d only be about six weeks before it’s time for the season proper to start.

    Would that be enough to get everyone match-fit given that there won’t be time for any practice games?

    It won’t happen. It’s a thought bubble. An idea. Thinking aloud.

    But, interestingly enough, I can see potential for a nine-month footy season. But the men won’t be playing all of it.

    AFLW starts at the beginning of February and is expanding. By 2020 it will have 14 teams, extending from the current seven rounds to 13. It may not be too many years beyond that before every AFL club has an AFLW team and we’re running a 17-round AFLW season.

    That makes some overlap with the men’s AFL season inevitable, but the overlap could be reduced by holding the men’s season back a few weeks, starting on the Anzac Day weekend and running through until the end of October.

    (Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    For those who want more trial match practice some AFLX could be scheduled in early March before the JLT Series in March and April.

    The pre-Christmas preseason training would be abolished, with the preseason starting after Christmas as a single block instead of stopping and starting again.

    Cricket would have no reason not to make the grounds available for October and could have them until the end of March or even early April for the Sheffield Shield final if they wanted.

    Giving the women more time in the spotlight before the men’s season starts would mean on-field footy action from the beginning of February to the end of October, creating a nine-month season, and with trades, the draft and the fixture release to come in November, that’s most of the year’s news cycle taken care of.

    The AFL would like to see that.

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    The Crowd Says (88)

    • Roar Guru

      January 18th 2018 @ 7:55am
      Cat said | January 18th 2018 @ 7:55am | ! Report

      What exactly would that add? What is so important about this ‘international’ fixation of yours?

      • Roar Guru

        January 18th 2018 @ 9:14am
        mds1970 said | January 18th 2018 @ 9:14am | ! Report

        What happened to Not So Super’s post that Cat is replying to? Very strange……

    • Roar Guru

      January 18th 2018 @ 8:07am
      Cat said | January 18th 2018 @ 8:07am | ! Report

      This could possibly be worked around by mandating that each player is limited to 31 or 32 games, requiring the clubs to manage each player’s individual byes.

      Would a suspension be able to be taken as a week off? If so, it may encourage more early guilty pleas and reduce the need for tribunal hearings. If not, there may need to be some flexibility in the rules for a player who the club was planning to rest in the last round but who gets suspended after the penultimate weekend.

      Suspensions would not be allowed to be counted as a bye. What is supposed to be a punishment should not be turned into a reward.
      Personal byes should not be allowed the first 4 weeks of the season (who needs a week off that soon?) nor the last 4 (you don’t want clubs mass resting before finals and appearing to ‘tank’ a match that may be meaningless for them, but important in another teams potential finishing position).
      Club would also need to be limited to a certain number of personal byes allowed every week. Again, you don’t want even the appearance of not caring about the outcome of a game.
      Players on personal byes must be allowed to go away from the club for 4 consecutive days (I believe this is the length of break players get during most club byes now) with no training or rehab allowed. If a player is injured and must be at the club working at rehab, visiting doctors or having scans, those weeks cannot be counted as a personal bye. Case by case allowances can be made for players on season ending or long term injury.
      If players get two personal byes per season, one must be taken in the first half of the season, the other in the second. No less than 4 weeks must pass between personal byes. If three personal byes per season than one in each third.

      • Roar Guru

        January 18th 2018 @ 9:17am
        mds1970 said | January 18th 2018 @ 9:17am | ! Report

        Absolutely. Even with short games, there would still be too much wear & tear in players’ bodies to get up 34 weeks in a row. And with so many rounds, there’s no time for byes.
        The guidelines Cat has put in place make sense in these circumstances.

        Of course this is all hypothetical, as a 34 round season won’t happen. But if it did, I think Cat has nailed the bye management side.

        • Roar Guru

          January 18th 2018 @ 9:47am
          Cat said | January 18th 2018 @ 9:47am | ! Report

          I think 2 personal byes works in a 22 game season but if the season were expanded the number of byes would have to increase. A 34 week season may require 4 or even 5 personal byes. To do this all clubs would need expanded lists. Perhaps 56 players, all eligible to play seniors, instead of the current 46 (40 senior + 6 category A rookies). Along with ground availability, I do not think the league can add another 10 x 18 = 180 players yet without diluting the talent too much.

          • Roar Guru

            January 18th 2018 @ 10:25am
            mds1970 said | January 18th 2018 @ 10:25am | ! Report

            Although they’re shorter games, so the fatigue wear & tear factor in any individual week would be less than it is now, the cumulative effect over a 34 week season would be considerable.
            2-3 personal byes should be enough as a mandated minimum. Players may choose to sit more out; but that’s part of the club list management.

            • Roar Guru

              January 18th 2018 @ 3:50pm
              Dalgety Carrington said | January 18th 2018 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

              The wear’n’tear factor is a bit of an unknown really.

              Theoretically the minutes played are the same/similar with shorter games/extended season vs current season, but it’d be a fair expectation for the intensity to go up, so there’s more crammed into the fewer minutes.

              How much the intensity could realistically increase might not be as much though, as you wonder how much more leeway there is for intensity increases on the current levels.

    • January 18th 2018 @ 8:35am
      truetigerfan said | January 18th 2018 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      Won’t happen. Will never happen. Let the ‘thought bubble’ burst. Puff!

    • Roar Guru

      January 18th 2018 @ 9:03am
      JamesH said | January 18th 2018 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      As much as I love footy, I like that it only consumes about 7 months of the year. I think I’d get footy fatigue if it went longer.

      • Roar Guru

        January 18th 2018 @ 9:10am
        Cat said | January 18th 2018 @ 9:10am | ! Report

        While I wouldn’t have that issue, I think one of the drawbacks of a long season could be the top 8 being decided months before the actual end of the season. Also how would clubs at the bottom be able to sell games in the 25th, 30th and 34th week if they were sitting bottom of the ladder with no chance?
        Some of it could be alleviated by clubs clearly out of contention playing the next generation and getting real games into players that will take them forward.

        • January 18th 2018 @ 9:44am
          I ate pies said | January 18th 2018 @ 9:44am | ! Report

          November is too hot for footy. It’s cricket season by then. There’s a reason why it’s warm for part of the year and cool for the other part of the year – so footy and cricket seasons can both be played in a year.

          • Roar Guru

            January 18th 2018 @ 9:54am
            Cat said | January 18th 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

            /eyeroll yep, weather exists to please sports.

            • January 18th 2018 @ 10:07am
              truetigerfan said | January 18th 2018 @ 10:07am | ! Report

              I think you missed the point, Cat. Not meant in a literal sense, surely.

            • Roar Guru

              January 18th 2018 @ 10:29am
              mds1970 said | January 18th 2018 @ 10:29am | ! Report

              The home & away season would be all over by mid-October.
              It may be necessary to have a night Grand Final to avoid the heat issue – but that’s something that will inevitably happen in the next TV rights deal anyway. Other finals are already played at night, away from the heat of the day.

              • January 18th 2018 @ 12:24pm
                I ate pies said | January 18th 2018 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

                Why don’t you just try to rip every tradition away from footy.

              • Roar Guru

                January 18th 2018 @ 1:20pm
                mds1970 said | January 18th 2018 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

                The night Grand Final will happen in the next TV rights deal anyway; whether it’s in September or later.
                It’s inevitable.

              • Roar Guru

                January 18th 2018 @ 1:11pm
                Cat said | January 18th 2018 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

                Tradition is just another word for habit.

              • Roar Guru

                January 18th 2018 @ 1:23pm
                Paul D said | January 18th 2018 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

                There’s always someone prepared to die in a ditch over perfectly sensible cosmetic changes that have no impact beyond on the emotions of a few overwrought, overinvested fans

              • January 18th 2018 @ 3:35pm
                I ate pies said | January 18th 2018 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

                There’s always someone determined to change things for the sake of changing them. Even if they’ve been perfectly good for 150 years.

              • Roar Guru

                January 18th 2018 @ 5:20pm
                Paul D said | January 18th 2018 @ 5:20pm | ! Report

                When the day grand final was decided upon every grand final was in the daytime because they didn’t have electric spotlights. Or televisions for that matter.

                you can still ride to Gympie on a horse if you really want to, but most people take a car these days

              • January 19th 2018 @ 8:11am
                I ate pies said | January 19th 2018 @ 8:11am | ! Report

                Nice analogy Paul, but it’s nothing to do with progress. Playing at night time won’t get you to Gympie any quicker or in more comfort. It’s change to make more money, not to please the crowd. Maybe you should go to a footy state for grand final weekend and experience what grand final day is like, then you might appreciate it for what it is. The tradition is good. Some traditions are good.

              • Roar Guru

                January 19th 2018 @ 9:23am
                Cat said | January 19th 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

                not to please the crowd

                Please don’t speak as if your opinion is representative of everyone. It would please me if it was a night game.

            • Roar Rookie

              January 18th 2018 @ 10:54am
              Emre said | January 18th 2018 @ 10:54am | ! Report

              It’s a joke

            • January 18th 2018 @ 12:22pm
              I ate pies said | January 18th 2018 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

              Where’s your sense of humour?

      • Roar Rookie

        January 23rd 2018 @ 12:10am
        Chancho said | January 23rd 2018 @ 12:10am | ! Report

        Another problem is the MCG and the cricket calendar, Cricket Australia/MCC have already had issues with the ICC over the Boxing Day test drop-in.

        Overall though, I like the idea of the shortened games to have a longer season as I’ve always felt the need to have a full H/A season.

    • January 18th 2018 @ 9:23am
      I ate pies said | January 18th 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      We already have too much footy; 9 months is way too long. The AFL would be finally jumping the shark if they moved the real season to accommodate more women’s games.

    • January 18th 2018 @ 10:25am
      me too said | January 18th 2018 @ 10:25am | ! Report

      Simply roll the fixture, and end teams duopoly on marquee games and let the random fixture determine them as well.
      Make it a fairer comp for all. It’s very easy, and will end the short sighted rush for immediate revenue. Smaller clubs will grow a little, bigger clubs will shrink a little. It will also end the farcical 6-6-6 system, which isn’t applied anyway as after marqee games are allocated smaller teams like the saints end up with a harder season than their position warrants – year after year.
      Extend the season by one game, so in season one you double up against 6 teams, then play 6 of the remaining 11 the next season, then the 5 next in a 22 round season. Ensure that all teams have had both a home and away against each other. The fourth season is begun completely randomly again.
      Too fair and obvious? Surely in a non-profit sporting competition, subsidised by our taxes to an extent, the afl and the government regulators should ensure that fairness/equality of opportunity is a higher priority than maximising profit – else we are discriminating against certain teams and fans.

      • Roar Guru

        January 18th 2018 @ 10:51am
        Cat said | January 18th 2018 @ 10:51am | ! Report

        Extend the season by one game, so in season one you double up against 6 teams, then play 6 of the remaining 11 the next season, then the 5 next in a 22 round season.

        If you extend the season by one week you no longer have a 22 week season. Who decides which teams gets the benefit of one extra home game each year? That would mean a lot of extra money for half the clubs and a very considerable on field advantage as well. Or are you saying have two 23 week seasons then a 22 week season? Cause that wouldn’t be confusing at all /sarcasm.
        I agree a formulaic method of fixturing is needed, ala the NFL, but 17 is a prime number and cannot be divided evenly.

        • January 18th 2018 @ 2:40pm
          me too said | January 18th 2018 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

          hmm. not sure how that is confusing when we currently have a comp that splits games based on balancing marquee matches, 5,6,7,8,9,10 day breaks, 3 split rounds for byes, a floating round 23, sold home games, etc, etc. pretty sure most teams and fans could wrap their heads around it.

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