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Solutions for the 2014 AFL fixture

Miles Wilks Roar Rookie

By Miles Wilks, Miles Wilks is a Roar Rookie

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    The AFL has suggested that in 2014 the much-maligned pre-season cup will be scrapped, and instead there will be just one long 24-round premiership season.

    There is no doubt that the pre-season cup and the State of Origin concept have faults, yet with some tweaking both formats have merit as viable pre-season competitions.

    But before one looks at any potential change to the AFL season the AFL management should research what occurs in other football competitions around the world.

    There are far more opportunities for trophy-winning moments in the other codes than what there is in the AFL. This is the state of play with other competitions:

    NFL (National Football League – USA)
    Three trophies on offer, 32 teams.

    EPL (English Premier League)
    Four trophies on offer, 20 teams.

    Two trophies on offer*, 10 teams.

    NRL (including State of Origin)
    Two trophies on offer, 16 teams.

    *The A-League at present has just one trophy on offer per year, but they are introducing a second competition next year.

    In contrast, the AFL is proposing to just have one trophy winner per year in a crowded 18 team competition.

    If it was a 12-team competition (as it was back in the 1980s) and you had one winner each year then the concept is easy to sell, but it is difficult to justify it in an 18-team competition.

    The central problem that no-one addresses is that there are way too many teams in the competition now to have just one team winning a trophy each year.

    Sharing the joy of cup-winning moments should be a factor in the AFL’s deliberations over the fixture.

    However, the future viability of the AFL’s pre-season cup is held back by the alarming drop-off in the prestige level of this trophy.

    It seems that in recent years it is more prestigious not to win the pre-season cup than to make an attempt to win it.

    Yet when Hawthorn and Essendon were sharing the pre-season/night trophies back in the late 1980s and 1990s it translated into being a prestigious title as they were the dominant teams of that era.

    Between them, Essendon and Hawthorn won nine of the 11 trophies on offer between 1984 and 1994.

    But now it seems that the less developed teams steel themselves to peak for this moment and to build some positive press for the home and away season.

    Brisbane, for example, won the title this year despite finishing 13th, 15th and 13th in the last three years of the home and away season.

    To solve this problem of there being a lack of prestige in the pre-season competition the competition should only be between the top six clubs from the previous season.

    Teams that have achieved in the year before are rewarded with a second chance of winning some silverware and adding some prestige to their club.

    They are the best teams and should be rewarded for that good form.

    The suggested format (of a six team knock-out competition) satisfies the requirement of the AFL for a quick three week competition and it also potentially gives an opportunity for instant revenge if the grand final combatants happen to meet in the pre-season playoff.

    First week: 3rd vs 6th – qualifying final 1
    First week: 4th vs 5th – qualifying final 2

    Second week: 1st vs winner of qualifying final 2
    Second week: 2nd vs winner of qualifying final 1

    Third week: the final

    An NRL comparison and the importance of the State of Origin concept

    In the NRL, the State of Origin competition is a bigger event than the NRL grand final, so that should also be of consideration in the AFL’s deliberations.

    It is the over-arching success of the NRL’s State of Origin competition that should make the AFL reconsider an AFL State of Origin concept.

    Whether the State of Origin competition is introduced every second or third year (in place of the pre-season cup) is up for debate, but it should at least be trialled.

    Recent AFL reports have confirmed that players ‘overwhelmingly’ supported the return of representative State of Origin football.

    The football guru Kevin Sheedy has also been a vocal proponent of re-introducing the State of Origin competition.

    A suggested three-week State of Origin competition is achievable. Initially Victoria would be deemed the highest seed, yet should Victoria lose the final they would also lose their status as the highest seeded team for the next series.

    First week: Queensland vs NSW vs Tasmania– round robin/shortened games/winner progresses
    Second week: Queensland (assuming Qld wins) vs Western Australia vs South Australia – round robin – winner progresses
    Third week: Western Australia (assuming WA wins) vs Victoria – full match.

    The time has come for the AFL to ensure that there are two genuine moments of trophy winning joy every year.

    It shouldn’t matter whether that be in a club competition or a State of Origin competition, but as long as there is a second competition on offer.

    As it stands now, the pre-season competition has lost its prestige. The aim of the new format as suggested is to increase the pride and prestige of that pre-season competition.

    The NRL state of origin concept has been such an enormous rating success, so much so that it seems the AFL should at least see if they can re-introduce the concept and work out if it gets traction.

    If it doesn’t work, then at least an attempt was made.

    Either way, the AFL should seek to learn from other sports as much as possible and having one competition per year is going against the wisdom provided by other competitions from around the world.

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    The Crowd Says (21)

    • August 31st 2013 @ 7:19am
      Football United said | August 31st 2013 @ 7:19am | ! Report

      Surely increasing the amount of rounds in a season is just going to make the fixture even more unfair?

    • August 31st 2013 @ 7:32am
      Shmick said | August 31st 2013 @ 7:32am | ! Report

      Some good points, but I can’t agree with respect to State of Origin. The AFL and players are speaking generally about rep footy, not SOO.

      SOO works so well in the NRL because that code is decades behind the AFL, and in all honesty it is only relevant to two states. It’s simple and it works.

      AFL has outgrown SOO, as evidenced in the 90’s after several non-VIC teams had become well established in the league. You’re better off promoting the SOO comp that exists between the state leagues.

      Rep footy in a national competition needs to be all-inclusive. There are players and fans from every state and territory as well as overseas. There needs to be an opportunity for every AFL-listed player to qualify, and every fan should feel equally compelled to take an interest in the game.

      I’d prefer to see something along the lines of the all star weekends that the American leagues do. There’s plenty of opportunities for innovation.

      • August 31st 2013 @ 2:33pm
        Simon said | August 31st 2013 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

        ‘SOO works so well in the NRL because that code is decades behind the AFL’ Haha most people will stop reading there

        • August 31st 2013 @ 3:03pm
          Cugel said | August 31st 2013 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

          Credit where due, has to be the non sequitur of the year so far

          • August 31st 2013 @ 10:47pm
            Shmick said | August 31st 2013 @ 10:47pm | ! Report

            It’s science.

    • August 31st 2013 @ 9:59am
      The Big Fish said | August 31st 2013 @ 9:59am | ! Report

      And you cant compare the physical demands of Football and NFL to AFL or NRL over a season. Half Marathon every week as well as tackling as much as happens over 30odd week means intense pressure takes a toll on players. Only way around is decrease teams but increase d player lists.

    • Roar Guru

      August 31st 2013 @ 10:27am
      Cat said | August 31st 2013 @ 10:27am | ! Report

      So what 3 trophies does NFL have? Are you talking about two conference trophies and the super bowl trophy? If that’s the case you left out the AFL minor premiership trophy.

      • Roar Guru

        August 31st 2013 @ 9:42pm
        peeeko said | August 31st 2013 @ 9:42pm | ! Report

        Exactly, no one cares , there is really only 1

    • Roar Guru

      August 31st 2013 @ 12:26pm
      Cappuccino said | August 31st 2013 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

      The A-League already has two trophies on offer (the Premier’s plate and the Championship) and will have three next year. If you’re going to bring up football in an AFL article, at least get it right.

      • August 31st 2013 @ 3:54pm
        Brad said | August 31st 2013 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

        Precious much?

        • Roar Guru

          September 1st 2013 @ 2:54pm
          Cappuccino said | September 1st 2013 @ 2:54pm | ! Report

          Maybe, but non-football journalists and fans alike so often ignore the A-League Premiers (or “minor premiers” as they’re usually incorrectly called) that it’s hard not to wish people would actually take notice.

          • September 1st 2013 @ 9:17pm
            Floreat Pica said | September 1st 2013 @ 9:17pm | ! Report

            The minor Premiership in the AFL was also overlooked as a trophy- so dont feel too slighted..

    • August 31st 2013 @ 2:37pm
      TW said | August 31st 2013 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

      Off Topic but related internationally wise–
      Good to see our game getting some sort of recognition overseas while that point is not important domestically it does make more sports admins (400 of them apparently) aware of the code offshore.
      Sheedy is in his element at this type of format.
      Internationally the game continues to spread and expand with “most” domestic comps having increased playing numbers albeit from established bases and also zero bases in some countries with “Iceland” of all places joining in.
      The sport is still mostly unrecognised but TV cover is helping very slowly to change that.
      I can see the day when the 3 yearly International Cup being capped for numbers due to time restraints which would be a positive.

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