It’s telling of the unwatchability of the 2018’s AFLX competitions that despite having unveiled two Brownlow Medallists, a three-time Coleman Medallist and a three-time All Australian small forward, the AFL has received an almost universally negative response to news of their revamped AFLX 2019 competition.
Patrick Dangerfield, Nat Fyfe, Jack Riewoldt and Eddie Betts teased their social media followers on Sunday by posting new logos which were later confirmed to represent the teams they will lead in AFLX 2019.
The 2019 competition will see these four players given the opportunity to draft their AFLX sides from a pool of at least 100 current AFL players. They will not be allowed to take more than four players each from any current AFL team, and Betts’ team will be compromised entirely of indigenous players.
Patrick Dangerfield – The Bolts
Nat Fyfe – The Flyers
Jack Riewoldt – The Rampage
Eddie Betts – The Deadlys
The announcement was met with an all-but-total lack of enthusiasm from AFL fans. A video posted on Twitter was liked 182 times but received 295 replies (at time of writing), virtually all of them expressing distaste for the promotion. Regular Twitter users would call it a pretty brutal ratio.
Why? On one hand, this announcement goes some of the way towards solving one of AFLX 2018’s major problems, which was the lack of star participants.
While it was the likes of Corey Maynard and Dion Johnstone lifting the trophy for Melbourne last year, this year each side will be headlined by one of the league’s most recognisable players – and the draft pool may have more quality in it to come.
It also offers fans the chance to see footballers who would not normally get a chance play together suit up for the same side, which may well translate into an enjoyable novelty factor similar to that of the International Rules Series.
Regardless, the 2019 AFLX revamp has still clearly missed the mark. Glitzy logos and an overhanded ‘superhero’ theme (coincidentally used in an event at the newly branded Marvel Stadium) have done nothing to address the fan perception that AFLX manages to be somehow both a soulless cash-grab and also a waste of money.
Many social media responders have made it clear they’d rather see funds directed towards AFLW and grassroots footy. The 2019 competition will cost $300,000 in player payments for a single night – compare that to the $344,000 salary cap that AFLW teams had to spend across their entire seasons in 2018.
While the calibre of player is improving in quality, there doesn’t seem to be any significant change to the overall format of the AFLX game, the watered-down nature of which made the 2018 competitions unbearably bland.
It’s ironic that some teams have been named after the attributes of their star players – such as Dangerfield’s ‘Bolts’ and Fyfe’s ‘Flyers’ – when these attributes have almost no room to be displayed in what is essentially a glorified game of kick-to-kick.
Perhaps changes that will make the actual substance of AFLX a little more meaty to bite into will arrive in time, but for now at least it would be fair to say that the AFL’s fanbase is thoroughly underwhelmed.