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Please AFL, leave the finals at eight teams

Roar Guru
15th March, 2010
14
2253 Reads

Kade Simpson and Justin Sherman chase the ball during the AFL 2nd Elimination Final between the Brisbane Lions and the Carlton Blues at the Gabba.

Less can often mean more but, in the case of the AFL, more is always best if it boosts the bottom line. As reported on The Roar on Saturday, the league is likely to move to a nine or 10-team finals series once the new clubs, Gold Coast (2011) and Greater Western Sydney (2012), enter the competition.

There is room for constant change in the AFL. The rule changes tell us that. But, surely, a final eight is sufficient? And if the league continues to expand, where does it stop?

League boss Andrew Demetriou offered the following last Friday: “What do the finals look like? Do we still have a final eight? That’s being done at the moment,” he said.

“We have a top eight with 16 teams, which is 50 per cent of the competition. When you go to 18 teams someone could run the argument ‘why haven’t we got a top nine?

“There’s no reason why we can’t have a top nine. Someone sent me a proposal the other day suggesting a top 10.

“We’ll look at all those things and we’d be remiss in our duties if we weren’t looking at and canvassing all the options.”

People might want to run the argument, but it is a poor argument.

Adding an extra few matches to the finals series may boost revenue, but it will eat into the quality of football we see. During finals, fans can expect to see the best of the best do battle over four weeks for the ultimate prize.

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If the league moved to, say, a top-10 format, I’m not sure fans could reasonably expect to see what they have become accustomed to. Some matches, in the first week especially, would have a regular-season feel to them. I’m not sure anyone wants that.

Just because the competition is expanded does not mean the finals have to follow suit.

The addition of two teams should be applauded if the AFL’s aims of entering new markets and increasing the quality of the competition are achieved. But increasing the number of teams in the finals will, without doubt, lessen the achievement of qualifying for final.

And the addition of two teams should not be an excuse for such a radical move.

It might make the bottom line look a little more attractive, but I have a feeling the fans won’t warm to it. Last year, for example, in a top-10 system, Hawthorn and Port Adelaide would have made the finals with a 9-13 win-loss record.

Teams with a winning percentage of just over 40 per cent during home-and-away matches do not deserve a finals spot.

You may argue that, in an expanded competition, the records of teams just outside the top-eight are likely to look more attractive.

But, do we then draw a line through teams with a winning percentage of 50 per cent or more? Do we simply allow all teams to qualify, and play 1 versus 18 and so on?

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The top-eight system has been proven a success. If we keep topping up, the quality of the September action will be on the downhill slide.