The AFL have fooled us all, again.
Last year, when launching AFLX, it was all about creating a game that could be exported and played on soccer fields. The product created showed a desire to at least achieve this goal (ignoring the fact that they already had a perfectly serviceable product, nines, to fill this niche).
But with the new and updated rules for AFLX this year, we are so far from traditional Australian football that it is in no way an attempt to appeal to international audiences. It is simply a corporate sell out.
Last year’s ‘Zooper goals’, sponsored by Zooper Doopers, were tacky, but at least they were based on a pun. This year, the corporates have invented the ‘Gatorade game changer’, whereby a player can score double points in the last five minutes of matches.
With this concept, any idea that this is a legitimate competition has disappeared. No other sport would even consider a rule as stupid as this, making one player twice as important as all others.
When the league announced that there would be a ‘draft’ of sorts to select players for the four competing teams, it was seen as a fun idea that would at least be interesting to watch.
But with these rule releases, that goodwill appears to have gone out the door.
AFL football operations manager Steve Hocking has said, “If people are going to show up to see who the game changer is that’s all part of the fun, particularly kids because that’s who the game is targeted at.”
Firstly, that is a big ‘if’.
Secondly, why do we need a game targeted at kids? We already have one, it’s called Australian football, and it’s appealed to kids for 150 years. But it has also appealed to adults. From lawyers to farmers this game has appeal – it crosses classes and cultures.
This also shows the AFL’s change of direction: it’s now not for international audiences, it’s for children who the AFL thinks are easily bored.
So why do we need a sport that appeals only to children? Children haven’t changed as much as people think, yet are treated as if they have the attention span of a fly. Engage children in the sport, but the real sport, not some boardroom’s version of what they think a child is interested in.
One of the most annoying aspects is the waste of time, money and resources developing AFLX, instead of pressing matters at the game’s heartland. Many country clubs are dying due to lack of players and funding, so maybe a strategy to keep these clubs going, or indeed maybe even a version of the game with fewer players might be warranted.
Maybe some better marketing and exposure of the women’s game might be in order.
Even working out a way to reintroduce State of Origin would be more valuable than the farce of AFLX.
AFLX is not a gamechanger, it is a distraction. Last year it was an understandable experiment, this year it is much more sinister.