Reilly O’Brien – or, if you believe the ‘explanation’, O’Brien’s iPhone – delivered one of the highlights of the 2020 season today, and it’s hopefully a sign of things to come.
Many (mostly supportive) comments were offered, and a good few made the central point as to why AFL Origin doesn’t work. Simply, the best/better players will not take (or be allowed to take) the risk during the season and usually put high priority on injury remediation straight after the finals (or sooner) each year.
So, while there are still 18 clubs playing a single division AFL competition, this would be my suggestion:
An ‘Us’ (Vic) vs ‘Them’ (non Vic) game is played as a curtain raiser to the grand final each year with players selected from clubs outside the top eight.
Participation is mandatory for all of those 10 clubs, but they have the right to have selected players made unavailable for the game on legitimate/demonstrable grounds, subbing in an alternative player.
The coaches for each of the two Us/Them teams are the coaches of the winning final series played between the bottom 10 clubs, in a season format as follows:
1. All 18 teams play each other once (ie 17 rounds).
2. Top four play next four in the ‘last’ round to decide the final ladder positions for the main finals series.
3. Bottom 10 do the same thing, deciding their ladder positions for a concurrent finals series.
4. Top eight finals series played as per current format.
5. Bottom 10 teams play their final series as curtain raisers to the main finals, with their grand final played before the main preliminary final.
6. This concurrent finals series is a competition for priority draft picks, incenting those clubs to field their best available players for those games.
Top ten draft picks are prioritised for the bottom 10 in order of their finals finish. They can be traded initially between those teams and then in an open draft as the market demands.
What are the benefits? Well, here are some.
– As a non-tribal grand final curtain raiser, the Us vs Them game would have some wide entertainment interest.
– The Bottom 10 finals series gives all supporters something to cheer for during the finals period.
– In turn those clubs have more to give/sell to their sponsors/members.
– Their players get “finals”experience, which many never get.
– They earn their priority picks rather than ‘not earn’ them.
– AFL might work on a ticketing scheme for the venues that makes them more money via gate turnover, TV rights and sponsors.
– We do not see four or five useless round games in weeks 18 thru 23.
Yes, I follow a club that (all but) always makes the finals. But, I am an advocate for changes to the format that gets more out of the sport for all concerned.