A Rugby Championship match in Perth on September 8 could cause major headaches to the AFL’s finals fixturing, with league boss Andrew Demetriou conceding the issue could have a flow-on effect.
Perth’s Patersons Stadium will be unavailable for AFL use on Saturday week due to the hosting of the Wallabies versus Springboks game.
A worst-case scenario for the AFL would be if both West Coast and Fremantle earned the right to a home elimination final next week.
If that eventuated, the AFL would have no other choice but to schedule one elimination final on the Friday night and the other elimination final on the Sunday, with the two qualifying finals to be played on the Saturday.
In four of the past five years, the AFL has chosen to schedule a qualifying final (1v4 or 2v3) on the Friday night of the first week of the finals, thus giving sides who finished in the top-four extra time between games.
If West Coast finished fifth and Fremantle sixth, Demetriou said the Eagles would likely be given the Friday night timeslot and the Dockers relegated to Sunday.
That means the winner of the Fremantle clash would have just six days to recover plus be forced to deal with the added burden of travelling before their next game.
Demetriou said the AFL would have little choice but to deal with whatever outcome arose.
“It has an impact on the rest of the finals from the perspective of things like six-day breaks and seven-day breaks and travelling,” Demetriou said in Perth on Monday.
“It’s not ideal.
“We’ve spoken to the government and to the football commission today about trying to avoid that in the future, but it is what it is and we’ll deal with it.”
Such is the uncertainty surrounding the final make-up of the top-eight, a situation could arise where neither West Coast or Fremantle qualify for a home final in week one, or just one of the teams get a home final.
Demetriou used his visit to Perth to get an update on the licensing arrangements of both West Coast and Fremantle.
The two WA-based clubs are united in their bid to remove the West Australian Football Commission from the current licence structure and instead have a direct licence arrangement with the AFL.
A similar situation is happening in South Australia, with the licences of Port Adelaide and Adelaide set to be transferred from the SANFL to the AFL before the end of the year.
“It is important that at a point in time that our clubs are independent,” Demetriou said.
“The clubs would prefer to be independent. They will continue to develop football because they’re committed to developing football.
“I don’t think there should be any fears about having this discussion.
“What we need to do collectively is work towards how we can do it better if we can. If we can’t, then it will stay the same.”
Demetriou also confirmed the AFL remained committed to contributing a yet-to-be-determined amount to the cost of Perth’s new 60,000-capacity stadium at Burswood, which is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2018 AFL season.