AFLX misses the mark

Pat Hornidge Roar Rookie

By Pat Hornidge, Pat Hornidge is a Roar Rookie


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    The thing that stood out most about AFLX on Friday night was that everyone was having fun, however this was due mostly to the atmosphere rather than the games themselves.

    I’m not convinced that AFLX is a bad concept, but the AFL’s decision to turn it (almost literally) into a circus did the idea no favours.

    Rather than let it be played on its merits, the AFL seemed determined to distract those in the crowd from actually watching the games. So we had acrobats, pipe bands and even mimes on the sidelines – clearly the AFL is up to date on modern entertainment.

    AFLX is certainly fast and attacking in nature and is high scoring. The true game of Australian rules is, at its core, a game of balance between attack and defence. It’s never an equal balance though, and the modern game is certainly played more defensively and in a more structured manner.

    AFLX goes too far to the other extreme, making this defensive, structured play almost impossible. Defence is basically useless, to the extent that a spoil that goes out of bounds rewards the man who failed to mark the ball with a free kick, due to the ridiculous last-touch rule.

    A game that has no defence is not engaging, even if the AFL thinks that it might be more exciting. The rare tackles that occurred during the games were a highlight, rather than being integral to the contest.

    Surprisingly, this attacking style of game did not benefit speedy players. With the distance that a player was allowed to run reduced from 15 to ten metres, the fast types were put at a deliberate disadvantage.

    Kicking 50 metres to either space or a free player is a much faster way of moving the ball, and carries much less risk of a turnover than in regular Australian football, due to its less congested nature.

    Australian football developed as a game where the advantages of kicking and running were in balance, and each had its own risks and rewards. The size of the grounds and the amount of players on the field meant that in many circumstances, running with the ball was safer. In AFLX though, kicking is king – which once again makes for a less engaging and balanced contest.

    Strangely enough, the game might suit less skilled players. The vast majority of AFL level players are able to kick a ball 40 metres accurately most of the time, so why award ten points for goal from 40 metres, when it’s something everyone can do? Of course, with the AFL, it’s just a way of artificially inflating the scores, but in a less skilled competition, it might actually work.

    Less skilled players will kick shorter, be less accurate and be less fit. Less accurate kicking might lead to actual contested play and less fitness will mean that the players will have to hold their positions more. And then, as these players get more skilled, defensive techniques will also increase leading to more engaging contests.

    If I might suggest a couple of rule tweaks: the out of bounds rule must go, or at least be changed so it doesn’t apply in the forward line, and the number of players must be increased to at least ten to allow for actual contested play.

    In some alternate universe, AFLX is the game the Australian rules might have evolved into. In its earliest days, the game quickly evolved to be played on rectangle pitches and crowds began to favour a more open and less congested style of play. Take that idea to the extreme and you end up with AFLX; an open game with minimal tackling and an open style.

    But if the AFL wants a product that will be played on soccer pitches and other rectangular grounds (which is an actual good idea), it must be developed on those grounds, not in the boardrooms.

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    The Crowd Says (6)

    • February 20th 2018 @ 9:36am
      Perry Bridge said | February 20th 2018 @ 9:36am | ! Report

      “But if the AFL wants a product that will be played on soccer pitches and other rectangular grounds (which is an actual good idea), it must be developed on those grounds, not in the boardrooms.”

      Have a look at the AFL Europe Euro Cup format, or Bali 9s or just the local footy played across Europe, Nth America, etc.

      I was surprised the AFL deviated so much from the AFL 9’s format that has functioned quite well for quite some time now.

    • Roar Guru

      February 20th 2018 @ 4:50pm
      Mango Jack said | February 20th 2018 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

      You could swap “AFL” for “test cricket” and “AFLX” for “T20” and republish this article.

    • February 22nd 2018 @ 6:04am
      Perry Bridge said | February 22nd 2018 @ 6:04am | ! Report

      I just love that there’s an officially sanctioned AFL Club X in each of Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane.

      The AFL are widening their interests for sure.

    • February 22nd 2018 @ 11:41am
      republican said | February 22nd 2018 @ 11:41am | ! Report

      ………much prefer Australian Footy myself.
      AFLx isn even worthy of the hybrid tag truth be told.
      Its a concoction for and by the multinational tele moguls that the AFL seem beholden to these days.
      Those ‘consumers’ who do support the concept are those who suffer from a reverse type cringe, that undervalues our codes robust and distinctive domestic status, mores the pity……..

    • February 23rd 2018 @ 12:41am
      Martin said | February 23rd 2018 @ 12:41am | ! Report

      The contrast between the fake mainstream media and social media was stark. Newspapers had glowing success stories about AFLX and next moves of playing a match in Hong Kong; whereas, independent social media had mostly negative opinions.

      • Roar Guru

        February 23rd 2018 @ 7:03am
        Cat said | February 23rd 2018 @ 7:03am | ! Report

        The cesspool known as twitter was negative? Shock, horror /sarcasm. When is it not?

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