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What format should the AFL finals use going forward?

Dustin Martin celebrates the Tigers' premiership. (Photo by Scott Barbour/AFL Media/Getty Images)
Roar Rookie
19th September, 2018
6

The AFL has used its current finals format since 2000, and the final eight system has been there since 1994.

The MacIntyre system was introduced with 15 teams and progressed with 16 teams, following Fremantle’s entry in 1995, before Gold Coast Sun entered as the 17th team in 2011 and Greater Western Sdyney became the 18th in 2012.

The current finals format gives protection to the top four teams whereby it gives them a double bite of the cherry. Since 2014, teams finishing third or fourth have gone out in straight sets. In 2014, Geelong and Fremantle were knocked out in straights sets, Sydney in 2015, as well as Hawthorn in both 2016 and 2018.

This year, the middle tier teams have been very close, with nothing separating the teams from 7th to 12th. In terms of playing finals, the one team that carries the momentum will win four times in a row to win the premiership – something the Western Bulldogs did in 2016.

The current home-and-away season actually kills the bottom teams, as they are waiting for the season to finish without anything to play for.

Based on the current finals system it is time to make a study and comes out with the new proposal to rejuvenate the competition.

Format A
Teams play each other once, except for one opponent who they will play twice. There will be a total of 18 rounds. Currently, there are five matches where a team plays someone they’ve already played, and there are bound to be complaints of teams getting easier fixtures. There is no mid-year bye; the bye will only be on one week before the finals.

Luke Shuey

Is it time for a new finals format? (AAP Image/David Mariuz)

The top eight will still qualify for finals, but there will be no more double chance. The top team can still lose to the eighth and got out on the first week. The matches will be; 1 vs 8, 4 vs 5, 3 vs 6 and 2 vs 7. The finals will be a best-of-three for each fixture, with the higher ranked team playing the first leg at home, the second leg away and the third leg home – if required.

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The quarters will be 15 minutes instead of the usual 20. For each final, there will be no draws, with a five-minute tiebreak to end the deadlock. The grand final, however, will be a one-match playoff with the usual 20-minute quarters.

For this format to succeed, the premiership team will be playing seven finals, with a total of 25 matches maximum. Teams in the finals will have a minimum of two matches, and players for each team will be looking at an 18-25 match season instead.

Format B
The 18 teams will split into three zones of six teams each. Each team in the same zone will play each other twice (10 matches) and the other teams in different zones once for total of 10 matches. It will be a 20 matche home-and-away season.

Each zone can be drawn depending on demographics, or the previous season’s rankings. There will be a mid-season bye as well.

The finals will still be an eight-team series. It will still be; 1 vs 8, 4 vs 5, 3 vs 6, 2 vs 7. This time, the first and second team will be given a double chance. If eighth upsets first in the home leg (at eighth’s home stadium), they will need to win the away leg (at first’s home stadium) as well. Same goes with 2 vs 7.

The other ties will still be settled over one match and the grand final will be a one-match fixture at the MCG.

For this format, the maximum number of matches will be seven if the seventh or eighth-ranked team wins all the way. Players will be playing for the maximum of 27 matches season, however, the playing time for the finals will again be 15-minute quarters instead of the usual 20 minutes.

Daniel Rioli AFL Finals Richmond Tigers 2017

More finals – more fun? (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

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Format C
There will be two groups of nine teams each. Each group will play each other twice, for a total of 16 matches, plus matches against two of the other group teams. The home-and-away season will, therefore, have a total of 18 matches.

Four teams in each group will qualify for the finals. A1 vs B4, B2 vs A3, A4 vs B1, A2 vs B3 – again with the best of three format. The grand final will be a one-match format at the neutral venue. The higher rank team plays at home first, away second, and, if necessary, at home for the decider.

There will be a minimum of two final matches and a maximum of seven final matches should team go all the way. With this format, the pros of competition will still be intense leading to the finals as each group will have a close to 50 per cent chance of making the finals.

Please assess and give your proposals on the following and I may tweak it better to make the competition more interesting.