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The AFL needs a bit of a shake up, so here are some ideas that could spice things up.
Let’s start off with a controversial one.
Reduce the season to 18 games
With the Players’ Association sayikng the season is too long, and fans complaining that double-up games are unbalanced, here’s a solution: drop the season down to 18 home-and-away games.
Teams play each other once, with one double-up game against a chosen rivals (Showdown, Derby, Battle of Bridge, Q Clash). Home and away matches would rotate across each season, so Collingwood would host West Coast in one season, then travel to Perth the next.
Broadcasters would obviously be displeased about losing 36 games, across how many hours of coverage. But I would counter that less is more, and knowing you only have nine home games rather than 11 will encourage people to watch more games.
From Rounds 3 to 12, there should only be eight games, so each team gets a bye. Then, where Round 17 would be, have an entire weekend off, which would se all players being sent away from their clubs (barring injured players, who are doing recovery stuff), and letting them have a genuine week off.
They’d be expected to still follow diets and do gym sessions, but they’d get away from the football grind, and take a well-deserved break before pushing towards the finals.
It would also allow officials to have a guilt-free break. The assistant coaches can take the weekend off, and go skiing. The trainers can go watch their kids play weekend football and relax without racing back to club duties.
The rolling byes (where two teams have breaks during the season) artificially extends the season, while not affecting broadcasters too badly. If anything, it enables more flexibility, as teams having the week off can easily play Thursday or Monday night football.
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Grand final stays in the afternoon
We have always done this, so why change? I enjoy the BBQ lunch on grand final day, followed by the game, then the BBQ dinner (because you probably didn’t clear anything up after the lunch).
From a purely practical point of view, an afternoon game finishes around 5pm, the players don’t get back to the change rooms until say 6:15pm, then celebrate with their teammates and family. Have a shower and something to eat, while enjoying a sponsored alcoholic beverage, they then join the commoners for the afterparty around 9pm.
If we move that to the night-time slot, the game would finish at 10pm, meaning the players wouldn’t get out of the changerooms until closer to midnight. And it would be such a long day for the players and officials that most would be gassed. They would still kick on, but exhaustion would hit sooner.
The entire argument that the pre and post-game entertainment would be better at night is silly. The grand final is the entertainment. You could put re-runs of Australian Idol on the big screens at halftime and I wouldn’t mind – I watch the footy for the footy. If I want to see Alice Cooper or Good Charlotte, I will go to their concerts.
Bye-bye Gold Coast Suns
While the AFL apparently needs a presence on the Gold Coast to keep their global domination plans intact, the Suns are doing more harm than good.
Where Greater Western Sydney is more about taking a sliver of the western Sydney market, the Gold Coast is just a joke that stopped being funny.
Move the licence to Tassie, and give the region to the Lions. They can stay the Brisbane Lions, just get them to play a couple of games in the Gold Coast, and team up with clubs like the Bulldogs, Saints or North Melbourne to ‘sell’ a home game to the Gold Coast.
Draft pick lotteries, free agency picks, and trade-only picks
The AFL can pretend taking doesn’t happen, but why would Carlton or the Suns bother trying to win when they can get Pick 1 (and in the Suns’ case, two very high picks with restricted free agency)?
Bracket the bottom four together, giving a 50 per cent chance for the team bottom to get pick 1, 25 per cent for 17th, 15 per cent for 16th and 10 per cent for 15th. That way, at best they can increase their odds, but not guarantee themselves top pick.
Free-agency compensation picks should be scrapped, as clubs have no incentive to force a trade when the compensation pick is a better outlet. Your compensation for losing the player is the salary cap room and list space.
Lastly, I would introduce ‘trade only’ compensation picks. Carlton and Gold Coast are both muted to be looking at compensation picks to bolster their lists, but they both don’t need the best 18-year-old in the country, they need premium, ready-made talent.
So, make it a trade-only pick and force the clubs to trade it away.
So there we are Roarers, a few thought bubbles for the weekend that may serve as a conversation starter.