The wildcard idea in the AFL just refuses to die, and for the first time in my life, I am trying to get on board with the pesky conference system.
I believe 17-5 is a perfectly fine way of drawing up the fixture, and I see no reason to change it.
But if we are indeed going to go wild, here is how it should work.
I am adding a Round 24 to the season (and reducing the pre-season to two weeks) to make room. The system will be an 18-5 conference system, with a rivalry round played to ensure the showdowns and derbies happen every year regardless.
Adelaide Crows, Brisbane Lions, Carlton, Essendon, Fremantle, Richmond.
Collingwood, Melbourne, Port Adelaide, St Kilda, Sydney, West Coast.
Geelong, Gold Coast, Greater Western Sydney, Hawthorn, North Melbourne, Western Bulldogs.
The ‘rivalry round’ would consist of the state derbies, Essendon-Collingwood, St Kilda-Bulldogs, Carlton-Hawthorn, North Melbourne-Melbourne and Geelong-Richmond.
This can always be tweaked for the Victorian teams, but the match-ups need to be from different conferences to work.
The ladders (plural) would consist of the conference ladder and overall ladder. The finals series will remain eight teams, with no wildcard round affair, but qualification will be different.
First in the ladder of each conference will be in the qualifying finals, with the next highest ranking team (overall) taking the fourth position. The lowest ranking of the three qualifiers (overall) would be the away team, as per the current structure.
The remaining second placed teams from the conferences would have the hosting rights of the elimination final, with the remaining two spots taken by the highest ranking teams overall who are not already in the finals (expected to be seventh and eighth anyway, unless one conference is especially difficult).
This would allow teams to chase the P1 in the conference, or the automatic qualification routes leading into the finals, without teams falling away. This also prevents a team with a 40 per cent win rate striking form a week before finals and getting a ticket.
Overall, I have never been a fan of the conference system in the AFL, and this system isn’t even a true conference system. What I have attempted to do is ensure everyone is heading to Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Queensland at least once and not punishing certain teams based on geography (like the Crows having to play in Perth twice, and not play Queensland teams twice).
Using this system, the final series would have looked something like this (omitting the double-up games being different)…
Qualifying finals: Sydney versus Hawthorn and Geelong versus Adelaide.
Elimination finals: West Coast versus Western Bulldogs and Richmond?! versus GWS Giants.
Richmond, from 13th, would have qualified for a home elimination final based on being second in Conference Gold. Essendon, Brisbane, Fremantle and Carlton would have all finished lower on the ladder. An abnormality in the fixturing.
North Melbourne also would have missed out on the finals with Geelong, GWS and Hawthorn all finishing above them.
It’s not a perfect system by any stretch, but it creates artificial excitement as the 13th best team can still play finals. Plus, an extra round of AFL football wouldn’t hurt, and the pesky pre-season can be shortened to make it happen.
But what are your thoughts, Roarers? I still subscribe to 17-5, but the AFL HQ boffins are thinking of changing it up for changes sake, so what are your thoughts?