Harsh, I know, yet the excitement I felt when Round 1 was confirmed to go ahead is nowhere to be seen now.
Gill McLachlan has announced that footy is back on June 11. I anticipated ticker tape being launched from windows of isolation and socially distant fireworks to be deployed, but there was merely a ripple of celebration.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way against the beautiful game returning and I’ll still be tuning in with wife-annoying regularity to watch these titans clash.
But I feel like it’s likely to be out of tradition and obligation rather than any thrill-seeking blood lust.
Any way you cut it, this year will be forever asterisked and it will be tough to get behind the already watered-down version of a season.
Whoever salutes on grand final day will know that it won’t count as much. It likely will to them, but to the rest of us they will be the pretenders. Something I never thought I’d hear myself say is that I really hope my team don’t win this year.
I do understand the need for it to come back and that it is an economy within itself. Beyond the entertainment value, many, many people rely on the AFL as a livelihood and the quicker we can head toward normal, the better it will be for a lot of folk. Not least Kane Cornes, who is running out of people to disparage.
It’s definitely worth checking out the positives of this new set-up and I’m happy to admit there are quite a few. The shorter game time means that the frenetic pace we clamour for will be on show from the first siren to the last and the reduced tally of matches should keep teams from having that late-season dip, so the quality will be on show right up to the end.
Speaking of the smaller season, each game will now have been dipped in gold. Every premiership point will see its value skyrocket faster than Uber Eats share prices. A dropped game could have devastating consequences because there aren’t enough furlongs to catch the pack if you fall behind.
The biggest win that will come from this season is the forced derailment of the coaching arms race. In a previous article I wrote about AFL club spending. I suggested that a greater focus be placed on the ever-increasing heads in the coaching boxes. Clubs inventing titles to gain as much IP over the enemy as possible was a becoming an untethered monster.
The soft cap has done a little to alleviate it, but I’m not for financial restrictions if you can afford to splash cash – I was more against snatching the top two or three in their field and hoarding them rather than allow that knowledge to filter across the league.
But this new financial world of post-COVID-19 has forced all clubs into this realm of thought. Now it has to be quality of the person in the chair rather than the number of chairs you can fill.
So I will be watching this season as little more than an implementation of sporting theories and morbid curiosity, but we can all come together knowing that this is, without a doubt, the death knell of AFLX.