Let’s give the split round the boot

Michael Cowley Columnist

By Michael Cowley, Michael Cowley is a Roar Expert

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69 Have your say

    Deep breath… there, finally it’s done. It took some time, and seemed more drawn out than an episode of The Bold and the Beautiful, but eventually Round 1 is complete.

    After six long months of waiting, I’m so relieved the footy is back, but Round 1 left me feeling a bit flat.

    It has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the footy, for early in the season, some of it has been exceptional, but it does have to do with the quantity.

    What is it with having a split round to open the season? Sorry, but I’m just not a fan.

    In 2012, I understood. The arrival of the Giants was a perfect opportunity to put the spotlight on Sydney, and have a showcase, standalone game.

    To most footy fans outside Sydney it was like another week of pre-season, then a full round of eight games followed.

    But last year we had two games – Adelaide versus Essendon and the Western Derby – then we had to wait a week for the rest of the round. Now this year, more drip-feeding of games. Four matches in week one, then five in week two.

    Why the rationing? It has been a famine for so long over summer, we needed a feast, not a couple of snacks. What happens next year? Five then four? Six, then three?

    Stop it. Nine games, one round. That’s what I want, and I don’t think I’m alone. Yesterday afternoon, a relaxing Sunday, but no footy on the box to watch! Not a game on TV until 7.40pm.

    Have a Thursday game, even a Monday match if you like, Mr Demetriou, but I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I want saturation of footy on my weekend.

    Four on Saturday, three on Sunday – or vice versa – or four on each. I don’t care, and thankfully I will have that from this week on.

    But from now on, stop it. No more split rounds to open the season.

    By all means have one mid-year when the players need to freshen up. They don’t need freshening from the NAB Cup. Like the fans, the players are raring to go. I know having spoken with a few fans that I’m not alone.

    GWS and Gold Coast fans for instance. They were on the highest of highs, but have to wait a fortnight to see their team go around again. Swans and Collingwood fans have to wait two long and painful weeks before their boys get a shot at redemption.

    So, apart from split rounds not being the way to open a season, what did we learn over Round 1?

    Some we kind of knew already. Having come so close last year, Fremantle may be ready to take that step required to win one.

    We know no Buddy, no worry for the Hawks. And that yet again, Geelong will be a premiership threat, and incredibly hard to beat at home.

    As a result, we saw that Adelaide, Brisbane and Collingwood all ran into good sides in Round 1. For the Crows and Lions, we’ll learn more when they play teams with whom they will battle for spots in the eight.

    The alarming thing for Pies supporters though was the magnitude of their loss to that good side, and whether that means they are now below that top level.

    As for the other teams touted as potential top-four sides – well Sydney are hopeful their stunning loss to the Giants was just an aberration, and the same goes for the Tiger faithful after their loss to the relative newcomers.

    North disappointed their fans yet again, Essendon surprised many by winning despite the off-field drama, Carlton showed they will give poor Mick a stressful 2014, while the West Coast – albeit only beating the Dogs – showed they are likely to be thereabouts this season, with a slick midfield and potent forward line.

    The Giants showed they might be ready to arrive a little earlier than anticipated. They probably won’t be playing finals in 2014, but judging purely on their Round 1 performance, they will win a few more games this season than they did in 2012 and 2013 combined.

    They will also scare the life out of plenty of other teams, while the Suns may be able to push a little closer, and knock on the door of the top eight in 2014.

    The Dogs are a work in progress yet again in 2014, but certainly a work with a lot of upside. Finally we have Melbourne and St Kilda, both expected to be contenders in 2014, but for a wooden trophy rather than a shiny cup.

    What did their result tell us? Well, the Demons will continue to get better under Paul Roos. They didn’t win, but there was substantial improvement. They did also lose to a team not expected to win many games this season, that performed better than most anticipated.

    While it will be another long year for both clubs, there should still be some highlights, and a flicker of light at the end of a long tunnel.

    And now onto next week when there will be nine games, and the one I’m looking forward to the most, GWS v St Kilda. Could the orange army be celebrating again?

    Michael Cowley
    Michael Cowley

    Michael Cowley spent more than 20 years covering sport for the Sydney Morning Herald, including 12 seasons as the paper's AFL writer. During that time he reported on the awful Swans of the 1990s, and then the successful teams of the past decade, including covering their premiership seasons of 2005 and 2012. You can find him on Twitter: @mick_cowley

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    The Crowd Says (69)

    • March 24th 2014 @ 7:50am
      greyhound racer said | March 24th 2014 @ 7:50am | ! Report

      if you don’t get the split round then you’ve been living in a cave. read up.

      secondly the issue isn’t the split round. the issue is that there were a lot of boring games in the split round.

      finally stick to the subject without ranting on with another review about round 1. you offered no new insights.

      • March 24th 2014 @ 8:22am
        Peeko said | March 24th 2014 @ 8:22am | ! Report

        Please explain the reasoning behind the split round

        • March 24th 2014 @ 9:13am
          jonesy said | March 24th 2014 @ 9:13am | ! Report

          i’m with peeko. in the words of pauline hanson- please explain.

          • March 24th 2014 @ 10:07am
            greyhound racer said | March 24th 2014 @ 10:07am | ! Report

            see responses below from other readers. additionally afl want to start season more in line with NRl, not 2 weeks later. Split round facilitates this.

            as mentioned if round 1 wasn’t so boring you wouldn’t be complaining. this is the real issue.

    • March 24th 2014 @ 8:19am
      Adam Julian said | March 24th 2014 @ 8:19am | ! Report

      Agree, I could have done the Sydney to Hobart a few times while waiting for the round to end.

    • March 24th 2014 @ 8:59am
      Penster said | March 24th 2014 @ 8:59am | ! Report

      An entire article on the split round without the reason for it! Weren’t tempted to do some research?
      The MCG, Gabba, SCG and Adelaide Oval are not available because of Sheffield Shield commitments and 2 extra teams in the comp mean a longer AFL season.

      It’s a terrible way to start the season but there’s no space in the calendar year. And the last Sat in September is sacred, not to mention October encroaching on other sports. The ridiculous thing, reported widely in the media, is that the G was contracted to Sheffield but actually vacant during Round 1.

      • Roar Guru

        March 24th 2014 @ 10:18am
        Cat said | March 24th 2014 @ 10:18am | ! Report

        2 games in perth, 1 in geelong, 3 at etihad, 1 GWS home, 1 Gold coast home, 1 Sydney @ ANZ … 9 games, 1 week, no MCG or any of the other grounds you mentioned.

        • March 24th 2014 @ 1:34pm
          Penster said | March 24th 2014 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

          Stuff up the draw wouldn’t it?

          • Roar Guru

            March 24th 2014 @ 3:44pm
            Cat said | March 24th 2014 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

            How so?

            • March 24th 2014 @ 5:48pm
              Shmick said | March 24th 2014 @ 5:48pm | ! Report

              You just blew your load on round 1 – what do you do for round 2?

              • Roar Guru

                March 24th 2014 @ 6:06pm
                Cat said | March 24th 2014 @ 6:06pm | ! Report

                uhhhh what?

            • March 24th 2014 @ 7:40pm
              joe b said | March 24th 2014 @ 7:40pm | ! Report

              Each city/state (nsw, qld, sa,wa) is to host a game every weekend i.e. 1 team plays at home and the other plays away. This is a very good strategy that keeps afl in everyone’s view every week, in the non vic states, and enables punters to follow 2 teams if they desire. If both teams play at home, in same round, then this will affect this strategy.

    • Roar Guru

      March 24th 2014 @ 9:32am
      mds1970 said | March 24th 2014 @ 9:32am | ! Report

      Currently, the MCG is off-limits till the end until the end of March. So the AFL, which could have put crowds of 50,000+ into the ground, are held back for the sake of a 1 in 6 chance of hosting a game that draws a couple of hundred. That’s clearly unsustainable.

      • March 24th 2014 @ 5:50pm
        Shmick said | March 24th 2014 @ 5:50pm | ! Report

        This is the main point that the article should have focused on. State cricket just doesn’t deserve to play on the big grounds until it pulls big numbers.

        • March 24th 2014 @ 6:18pm
          alicesprings said | March 24th 2014 @ 6:18pm | ! Report

          surely the gov and the CBA can scrap together a few million to get junction oval right..what a joke that the MCG was vacant for round 1!

    • March 24th 2014 @ 9:40am
      Plainsman said | March 24th 2014 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      Could not agree more

    • March 24th 2014 @ 10:34am
      Johan said | March 24th 2014 @ 10:34am | ! Report

      Let’s not. The split round was great for AFL in NSW.

      • Roar Guru

        March 24th 2014 @ 10:41am
        Cat said | March 24th 2014 @ 10:41am | ! Report

        And how did the split round specifically make AFL great in NSW?

        • March 24th 2014 @ 1:33pm
          Johan said | March 24th 2014 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

          AFL competes with rugby and NRL for hearts and minds in NSW and they start earlier than AFL. AFL would be stupid to give other competing codes a head start.

          • March 24th 2014 @ 2:29pm
            macca said | March 24th 2014 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

            Why are the NSW AFL fans so fickle that they will switch allegences with just 1 week without AFL?

            • March 24th 2014 @ 4:23pm
              Wentworth Park said | March 24th 2014 @ 4:23pm | ! Report

              He didnt say “NSW AFL Fans”. See here http://www.sportal.com.au/afl/news/afl-fixture-guns-for-nrl/wwipls52y44b1wp074qxowfdf

              Whether right or wrong, this is ONE reason for the split round. I hate it, but I suck it up.

              • March 24th 2014 @ 5:22pm
                macca said | March 24th 2014 @ 5:22pm | ! Report

                Sorry – Why are the “Northern AFL” fans so fickle that they will switch allegences with just 1 week without AFL?

                And as discussed elsewhere both Northern Markets were without a AFL game this weekend how does that prevent giving the NRL a free kick?

              • March 24th 2014 @ 8:02pm
                Wentworth Park said | March 24th 2014 @ 8:02pm | ! Report

                “Why are the “Northern AFL” fans so fickle that they will switch allegences with just 1 week without AFL?”

                You are exaggerating but I’ll play along.

                Basicially, if you can answer that question, you can answer the secrets of the universe. Not even people that live in Sydney conclusively understand why people are happy to follow several codes, only like a winner, are no where near as patriotic about their state as the other states, or attend most sporting matches (like The Ashes or horse racing which don’t have competitors) in large numbers. As I said to a mate on the weekend, if the state government gave the SCG “free money” to make the SCG a 100,000 seat venue for the cricket, the SCG would refuse because it would never ever fill up.

              • March 25th 2014 @ 8:49pm
                Wentworth Park said | March 25th 2014 @ 8:49pm | ! Report

                Yes I agree with your last comment Macca.

            • March 24th 2014 @ 5:59pm
              Johan said | March 24th 2014 @ 5:59pm | ! Report

              Not sure macca but unfortunately many NSW fans are fickle particularly Sydneysiders. Crowds are much lower than Melbourne across all sports. Not having a go at Sydneysiders as I am one – just telling the truth. Clearly the AFL knows this cos they factored it into the fixture list this year as Wentworth Park’s link shows.

              • March 25th 2014 @ 9:29am
                macca said | March 25th 2014 @ 9:29am | ! Report

                While it might be true that Sydney sidres just are more fickle, to me playing a game 2 weeks ago there to thwart the NRL only to leave the city vacant this week kind of deeats the purpose.

              • March 25th 2014 @ 8:50pm
                Wentworth Park said | March 25th 2014 @ 8:50pm | ! Report

                “many NSW fans are fickle particularly Sydneysiders”

                Can you back the comment up with some facts?

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