Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley says two thoughts never crossed his mind this week.
It seems rather astounding that a game designed for the purpose of fun and enjoyment has received such extensive – well rather – serious criticism.
It is even more bizarre when you consider that AFLX is replacing absolutely nothing unless fans are weeping in despair about the loss of a third JLT Community NAB Cup Wizard Challenge.
As long as the AFL continues to leave the real footy alone, what harm could possibly come from having a fun pre-game competition? Certainly not injuries or fatigue.
In fact, this limited-contact version of AFL is surely much less of an injury concern than club training – or even JLT for that matter – in which many unfortunate injuries have taken place.
But why bother with this ‘fake’ footy? Well, firstly, it’s pretty damn fun.
Anyone who enjoys the lighter aspects of footy, such as nicknames, banter and long goals, would find this competition a bit of a relief from off-season footy deprivation, as we wait for that tantalising round one clock to count down to zero days.
More importantly from the AFL’s perspective, this is an important step to spreading the game across Australia, and potentially even overseas.
There are two key aspects to AFLX which make it a valuable commodity. You only need 16 players, rather than 36, and you do not need an oval.
The success of amateur and junior soccer and the rising interest in the sport in Australia is built on many solid foundations. One of these is the sheer amount of people of all ages playing five-sided soccer, known as futsal.
Most of these competitions would simply not exist if each team needed 11 mates as well as substitutes to form a team.
AFLX sets an example for schools and sport centres to follow, providing the rules and publicity (free advertising) for competitions to start up in the coming years.
This is especially valuable in NSW and Queensland, where rugby fields may be all that is available, and where Aussie Rules fans are somewhat scarce.
Now, 16 players on a rectangular field suddenly become a wonderful idea.