Enough with the negativity! AFLX is here, I’m looking forward to it, and I think you’re going to love it.
It promises to be the AFL’s equivalent of rugby sevens, promoting itself as non-stop action.
Played on a rectangular ground, bringing the fans closer to the action than on a traditional oval, it’s played as ten-a-side, with seven on the field from each team at a time.
There are ten-minute halves, and super goals worth 10 points if kicked from outside 40 metres.
The AFL have gone all out to promote it – their gala launch featured skydivers and acrobats. On game day there’ll be DJs, fireworks and gimmicks galore as the players look to land Zooper goals.
Regardless, the reaction online has been overwhelmingly negative:
“Not real football,” they say, “it’s just meaningless hit and giggle.”
“No need for this,” is the catchcry from many, “I want nothing to do with this circus.”
“It’ll never take off,” many whinge, “doomed to failure.”
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But we don’t need a long sporting memory to have heard all this before.
T20 cricket had a gimmicky opening, with nicknames on players’ shirts and Andrew Johns making a guest appearance for NSW.
But from those modest beginnings, a new market for the game grew. Domestic cricket hadn’t drawn a crowd for 80 years but now the Big Bash takes over our summers with night after night of non-stop action.
T20 cricket was a departure from tradition, but those who deride the franchises, the music, the fireworks and the gimmicks as not being real cricket overlook something important.
So, will AFLX grow from humble beginnings to be a new dimension to our game? The possibility is there.
T20 discovered a market for a family-friendly product over a short time-period, with affordable tickets, and a sense of fun.
Just as the inventors of T20 would never have guessed that its place would be to breathe life back into domestic cricket, AFLX’s place in the footy landscape isn’t yet known.
Maybe it will morph into a pre-season series over several weekends. Maybe it will become a mechanism to keep the likes of Brent Harvey and Stevie Johnson –
who can no longer run out four quarters – in the game for longer.
It could help the game spread internationally, as it can be played in places where there are no oval grounds and not enough players to field teams of 22.
Maybe it has a place at grassroots level? There are old stagers out there, like myself, who no longer have the stamina for a full match but would love to dish out some bumps like you can’t do in AFL nines.
I’m looking forward to watching AFLX.
The moaners can shake their heads like Statler and Waldorf, spreading gloom and cynicism. I’ll be out at the Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday, getting caught up in the fun of something new – it’ll be a sporting adventure.
And if the night finishes with the Giants raising some silverware, that would be perfect.