He may supposedly be in his final year of coaching but when Mick Malthouse speaks, people in footy circles still take note and that was never more evident than this week after comments made by the Pies coach following Saturday’s 138-point thrashing of Port Adelaide.
“The scorelines at the moment in AFL football, I think, has to be a worrying trend for the AFL, it has to be,” Malthouse said.
“This is not going to bring people to the football. Do you get any delight out of it? No … we’re entertainers not masochists.”
And I must admit after watching the first quarter of the brutally lopsided Port-Collingwood game, I switched over to Essendon-Sydney for a better contest and duly found one.
Of course, the AFL can’t simply just ignore this problem with the flick of a switch like I did.
Indeed, Malthouse has a point, particularly when you consider there’s been nine 100-plus point thrashings in 2011. That’s the most since 1991, when there were 10 such results.
And the Pies coach made a good case for the AFL to act on the issue, when he added: “Believe me, it’s going to get worse when free agency comes in.
“History just shows in any sport, players who want to change clubs don’t change clubs necessarily for money, they change for success. It makes the top sides stronger and the bottom sides weaker.
“We have seen that in European soccer, we have seen that with other codes, and unfortunately I think we are going to create something that is not what is ideal for the competition… This is not isolated … we are seeing far too much of this.”
Intriguing stuff, particularly when you combine Malthouse’s perceived effect of free agency, with the obvious effects of expansion and the introduction of more clubs with the talent pool becoming diluted. It’s a bit of a concern?
Perhaps… perhaps not.
A poignant question to ask in this whole issue is, is it actually a trend?
The fact of the matter is we’ve seen six 100-plus defeats in the past six rounds which has essentially brought the issue to the fore.
However, prior to Round 15 this year, we’d only seen three! And two of those came from the league’s newboys Gold Coast.
And how quickly we forget this season was supposed to be the ‘year of the draws’ after three drawn games in the first four rounds.
It’s arguable this is just part of the swings and roundabouts of sport and there’s no reason for alarm.
However, it is a discussion worth having just to ponder where AFL footy is heading, but suggestions of rule tinkering, such as shortening the length of quarters – as proposed by Paul Roos on Fox Sports’ On The Coach – is a half-measure and a step too far in my opinion.
The pertinent question is, if the AFL expands to 18-20 clubs can they maintain a competitive gap between the top clubs and those at bottom?
The modern game’s issues with differing levels of football department spending suggest there’s
more to it than just shortening quarters.
At the moment financial powerhouse Collingwood have a yawning gap on the strugglers and their current percentage of 186.06 highlights that fact. But, of course, this is a once in a generation side of genuine quality.
Then again, maybe with the resources at Collingwood’s disposal this is a club who will be hard to budge from the top for a long, long time as Malthouse suggests.
Then again, how quickly we forget Collingwood finished 15th only six years ago. And the club currently sitting 15th, Brisbane, won three consecutive premierships at the start of the last decade.
Perhaps this is just part of the natural cycle of footy, perhaps not.
But realistically, the best way to assess this isn’t in light of the past six rounds thrashings but the season as a whole and as 1991 shows, this has happened before.
Now is the time for the AFL to observe and ponder the situation, but not act.