Another preliminary final weekend is upon us and once again the sides that finished in the top four at the end of the home and away season will face off for a spot in the grand final.
With Sydney and Geelong’s respective victories on the weekend its takes the record of home sides in semi-finals to 26 wins from 28 matches since 2000.
Let’s face it, the results in Week 2 of the finals are about as predictable as the sun rising in the east.
These results were probably even more likely this year as the teams in the bottom half of the eight were the weakest group of teams in some time.
Putting that aside, no side outside the top four has even come close to winning a grand final under the current finals format.
The question must surely be asked, should eight teams really be playing finals?
Perhaps the losers in Week 1 of the finals have too great an advantage. They get at least an extra days’ rest and have home grand support.
Should semi-finals be played on neutral territory or should home sides be given less time to prepare following a qualifying final loss?
That hardly seems fair for sides that have earned a double chance.
Perhaps the solution is ‘less is more’: cut the number of teams that play finals.
Two alternative formats are a top four playoff over three weeks or a top six over the same period.
Under a top four playoff, the games are as follows:
1 vs 2 (Qualifying Final)
3 vs 4 (Elimination Final)
Week 2 – Preliminary Final
Loser Qualifying Final vs Winner Elimination Final
Week 3 – Grand Final
Winner Qualifying Final vs Winner Preliminary Final
The top six format would reflect the Super Rugby format with all finals being elimination, but the top two sides getting the first week of the finals off.
Change needs to be happen.
At the moment, the finals format reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Duffman hosts a quiz competition and states, “now for the final round which counts for 98 percent of the total score, making the previous two rounds a complete waste”.
Reading between the lines, the elimination and semi-finals are those previous two rounds.
No doubt from a money-making perspective, getting 95,000 to the MCG for an elimination final is certainly not a waste.
But the Richmond vs Carlton game will quickly become a footnote , and join many others which are quickly decomposing in the dust bin of history.