The AFL must reconsider the ANZAC day fixture

Adrian Musolino Columnist

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Popular article! 4,624 reads

    Essendon's Brent Stanton and Collingwood's Brent Macaffer dive for a loose ball during the AFL ANZAC Day Round 05 match between the Essendon Bombers and the Collingwood Magpies at the MCG. Slattery Images

    Essendon's Brent Stanton and Collingwood's Brent Macaffer dive for a loose ball during the AFL ANZAC Day Round 05 match between the Essendon Bombers and the Collingwood Magpies at the MCG. Slattery Images

    The Collingwood versus Essendon ANZAC day fixture has, in the space of over a decade, become one of the AFL’s great traditions and this season’s rendition delivered an epic contest. But that shouldn’t overshadow the debate about whether the fixture should be shared amongst other teams.

    The debate has long raged, whether these two clubs have the right to own the fixture and other clubs have publicly stated their displeasure at missing out on the occasion.

    The success of the match up, born out of the foresight of former Essendon coaching great Kevin Sheedy, owes much to the rivalry between the two clubs that preceded the ANZAC day fixture and the great work the clubs and the code have done to turn the day into such an occasion, a worthy tribute.

    But the myth that only Collingwood and Essendon could attract a sell out crowd or are worthy of the occasion needs to be examined.

    We don’t know the extent to which the success of the fixture can be attributed to the Essendon and Collingwood rivalry or whether it has more to do with the setting, the MCG on ANZAC day.

    Is the ANZAC day fixture at the MCG entrenched on its own accord or is it the Collingwood Essendon match up?

    Other teams can also attract a great crowd with such a setting, in 1975 Carlton and Essendon attracted 77,770 to Waverley on ANZAC day.

    There is more than just the issue of fairness as the occasion is at the mercy of the form of the two sides.

    The AFL has two choices.

    Firstly keep the traditional fixture between the two and cash in on the guaranteed high ratings and crowd.

    Keeping the fixture will only foster the criticism from the other teams however.

    Secondly, by accepting the current draw is far from fair for all and that it favours certain clubs, by forgoing the current fixture and opening it up to other teams the AFL will show it is willing to address the imbalances and criticism it receives.

    Why should the humbling experience Collingwood and Essendon players, fans and coaches feel on ANZAC day be reserved for them only?

    The setting and occasion of the day can surely survive without the two teams.

    Make no mistake the Collingwood V Essendon match up has been enormously successful.

    But ANZAC day doesn’t belong exclusively to the two sides as the significance of the day is not unique to them only.

    Perhaps ANZAC day could be reserved for the Grand Final teams of the previous season, rewarding clubs for their success and ensuring the match up has that extra spice, a rematch at the same ground marking it out as an even more important fixture.

    Every club is therefore in the running to earn an ANZAC day match.

    Traditions and occasions are all well and good but the issue of fairness cannot be ignored and the rest of the clubs are missing out on being part of one of the most important dates on our sporting and cultural calendar.

    Adrian Musolino
    Adrian Musolino

    Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.

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    The Crowd Says (18)

    • April 26th 2009 @ 9:19am
      Diana Kossatz said | April 26th 2009 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      That is not Brent Stanton in your pic.

    • April 26th 2009 @ 9:38am
      ANZAC Supporter said | April 26th 2009 @ 9:38am | ! Report

      Mick Malthouse is mislead in his thinking that Collingwood “Has let down the Anzacs” because they have only let down the people they have always let down and that is their supporters. Anzac Day is not about Collingwood or any other football team but the brave sacrifice that young men made in the defence of what they believed was the right thing to do for “King and Country”. To use Collingwood’s bad performance in their match in this way is disrespectful and dilutes the Anzac spirit.

    • April 26th 2009 @ 9:46am
      sheek said | April 26th 2009 @ 9:46am | ! Report

      Yeah, why should they have exclusivity. Maybe go back to a kind of “match of the ay” concept, whereby two of the top teams are scheduled.

      For example, you could have had 2008 grand finalists Geelong & Hawthorn play the Anzac day match. Or two other top 4-6 sides expected to shine this year (with the knowledge the draw is made the year before). St.Kilda are on the rise as another example.

    • April 26th 2009 @ 12:09pm
      Kevin said | April 26th 2009 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

      Why try and mend something which isn’t broken. We have a great day and a great crowd who enjoys the occasion. Theoretical articles dont alter reality. Leave Anzac day alone.

    • April 26th 2009 @ 12:25pm
      megatron said | April 26th 2009 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

      Agree. Not fair for the same two to have the day exclusively. How many blockbusters do Collingwood get!

    • April 26th 2009 @ 4:42pm
      Jon said | April 26th 2009 @ 4:42pm | ! Report


      The size of the crowd is extremely important to generate the emotion required to do the event (which is all about respect and remembrance) justice. Having a policy of the previous year’s grand finalists playing is flawed because one team very well may be from interstate, and the MCG will not be filled, even on ANZAC Day, during the H&A season without two Victorian teams (at least in the foreseeable future). Let alone when the weather’s not looking good (85K turned up yesterday even though storms were forecast).

      To absolutely ensure the crowd size you need the powerhouse clubs playing (Ess/Carl/Coll). Letting only Carlton in will not stop enough of the criticism to justify breaking with the Ess v Coll tradition. (Especially considering that those teams, and their supporters, worked to make the event what it is.)

      And if the values transcend Ess/Coll, why does it automatically follow that other teams can move in on the game? The event must be arranged to honour the values, and this article simply asserts (besides providing a 1975 crowd figure) that changing the current event won’t compromise that honour. The values are honoured every year as it is, and the respect and remembrance is unquestionable — nothing in this article suggests that a change is either required or an acceptably low risk.

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