Every year we see the same headlines pop up.
People talk about which team has the best chance in the upcoming season and which players are rated elite and how the draw can favour one team due to the way they placed the previous year, given that each team plays each other once before the other games to make up the required 22 games per year are allocated.
But the unspoken, ignored injustice of a Victoria-centric landscape of the AFL goes unmentioned.
Maybe the fact that Melbourne had 18 games in Melbourne in 2019 could be ignored or the fact that Collingwood, Richmond, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs had 17 in their home city is just the way the draw works out.
Then I could be excused for mentioning that Geelong, Hawthorn, St Kilda, Essendon and Carlton all had 16 games in their home city.
But when you see that Adelaide, Brisbane, Freemantle, Gold Coast, Port Adelaide, West Coast, Greater Western Sydney and Sydney all had 12, that’s when the real injustice is seen.
Financially, the more your fans can attend games in your home city, the better. It’s not hard to see why clubs with 16 or more home-city games each season can attract supporters to every game.
Outside of the financial benefits, there is the travel logistics, the impact to player recovery, and costs to teams in terms of impaired preparation.
Think how easy it is each week for teams that can simply drive down the road to play. Then on the flip side, interstate teams need to travel, recover away from home, organise accommodation and be separated from their families and fans.
When drawing up the new season’s fixtures, the AFL does attempt to make the draw fairer by providing teams that finished in the bottom half of the ladder the previous season with fewer games against teams that finished in the top half of the ladder the previous year.
While this does serve as a way to alleviate the symptoms of a team struggling lower in the ladder, it does assume – with the absence of a crystal ball – that teams will perform similarly to the season before.
The issue of draw inequality for non-Victorian teams in regards to games in your home city is a challenging one for the AFL, but it starts by recognising firstly that the inequality is real and that the AFL is not simply a Victoria-centric game.
I understand that most Victorians simply do not care but accepting the problem may go a long way to understand why teams like Greater Western Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast struggle to get a strong supporter base in their home state even when they are successful.