The finals format has something very wrong with it.
Something very wrong with where games are played.
And no, it’s not about the grand final being perpetually held at the MCG. It’s not about which ground Geelong are fixtured to play their finals matches. Well, it kind of is, but not in the way I suspect that you’re thinking.
Ever since the McIntyre Final Eight System was replaced with the AFL final eight system in 2000 they have erred.
The semi-finals are hosted by the wrong teams. The teams that lose the qualifying finals get rewarded for losing by winning the right to host their semi-final. This gives them an obvious advantage, a home-state advantage.
It’s simple really. Finals should be hosted by winning teams.
For the second week of finals, the winners of the elimination final should be the hosts, not the losers of the qualifying finals.
The fact this does not happen rewards the top four teams twice.
They already get a double-chance and the opportunity to drop a game, then as a bonus, they get the opportunity to host a final, one which will probably see them through to a preliminary final when they don’t deserve it.
The reason stated for this schedule mishap is that these teams finished higher on the ladder, which is fair enough. For the first week of the finals.
The higher teams get to host the finals. But only in week one. The qualifying and elimination finals should be hosted by the highest-placed teams.
However, once a final is played, ladder position should become irrelevant. The winners should be rewarded.
Interestingly, this policy of higher placed teams hosting only applies for the first two weeks. The preliminary finals never adhere to this formula. The winners always host the preliminary finals.
Usually, it goes unnoticed because the finals work the way they’re supposed to and the higher teams win, but this year provides the perfect example of how this fixturing is a fundamental error.
Geelong finishes on top in first place so get to host their qualifying final (yes, I know at the MCG – that’s another article that has been written to death – let’s move on).
They lose, so as a reward they get to host West Coast – purely because they are a higher-placed team. Makes sense.
Same goes for Brisbane, they finish second and host Richmond at the Gabba, then lose and get to host GWS despite the Giants winning.
But say Geelong win this week, they then play Richmond at the MCG.
Richmond get to host because they won their qualifying final. Geelong are the higher placed team.
Hang on, that doesn’t look right.
Maybe it works with Brisbane.
Hmm. No, they win their semi-final, they get to travel to Melbourne and play Collingwood at the MCG despite finishing higher – and winning their semi-final.
So this means that the teams that finished third and fourth get to host – because they won – but Geelong and Brisbane still host their semi-finals because they lost.
Obviously no one would suggest that Brisbane or Geelong get to host the preliminary finals (should they make it) against the teams that won the qualifying finals, so the obvious issue is that they should not be rewarded for losing their qualifying finals with the hosting gig for the semis.
Week two of the finals should be hosted by the winning teams, not the losing teams.