This is not meant to be disrespectful of the clubs still in the finals in 2020 – good luck if your team is still in the race.
I’m going to assume that by December 2020, we have Covid under control and football can resume a semi-normal existence in 2021.
If not, please change this plan to 2022!
This season saw some enforced experiments that could tweaked to work in the long term.
Sixteen minutes (+ Time On) quarters
I don’t like them and most of you don’t like them but I suspect the AFL and their sponsors are quite pleased with the outcomes of shorter quarters in 2020.
Us punters won’t get a say in this and the decision will be made at Head Office after consulting with clubs.
Shorter quarters (than the traditional 20 minutes + Time On) will enable the AFL to play more games in a normal season.
More games equals more revenue and we all know this is what drives the AFL – and in many ways it has to.
I suspect the change to 18-minute quarters is a reasonable adjustment that has already been suggested by some.
When I say more games, I mean an increase from 22 to 26 games. This would allow every team to play every other team three times over a two-year period.
It does not equate to more actual playing time over the season but it will make it a little fairer for all teams.
In the past, some teams have had “easy draws”.
Clubs would have one additional game over the two years which could be a “marquee game” against a traditional rival.
Hub Life and five-day breaks
Before ‘Hub Life’ became a phrase, I proposed road trips (in my February 6th, 2020 article) with four or five-day breaks.
Some people liked the idea, others thought it was “stupid” or suggested it “won’t work and won’t be considered by the AFL or the AFLPA”.
Well, 2020 proved that it can work and players from all clubs put up with a lot more than I proposed.
Now that the clubs, the players and the AFL have trialled a system of “road trips” or “hub life”, there is no reason it can’t be a permanent part of the fixtures but on a much better planned basis.
Perhaps the fixtures coordinator can design the fixtures so that five day breaks are only for a team not travelling.
What I mean by this is that if Brisbane travel to Victoria to play Carlton at the MCG they have a five-day break before playing St Kilda at Etihad then fly home and get a six-day break (minimum) before their next game.
For 2017-2019, the AFL home-and-away season was 158 days from start to finish. Increasing this by just seven days allows sufficient flexibility to complete all 234 games that would compose a 26-round season while giving teams a minimum of a five day break.
There would be multiple midweek games and where possible, these can be scheduled for school holiday periods.
However, there will be times when crowds are down – I think this is a reality we have to accept. As much as we don’t like it, television revenue is more important than physical spectators.
Restricting the number of games for individual players
If we have 26 games in a season, I suggest we restrict each player to a maximum of 22 games. The clubs can manage this themselves with simple over sight by the AFL.
Many players are already “managed” and rest for games against lesser opponents – this is just an extension of that reality.
It would also encourage clubs not to play a player who is carrying a minor injury.
The other advantage with this is that a player could sit out a road trip (and therefore two games) if they had an injury, family issue or anything else. They would not be disadvantaged in the Brownlow and Coleman awards as all players could play 22 games.
If a player was suspended for two games, their maximum would be 20 for the season.
Furthermore, first-year players could be given reasonable breaks during the season if the club felt it was in the players’ interest.
Also, if it means we get one more year of Gary Ablett, I’m all for it – and I’m not a Cats supporter.
This would actually reduce the maximum possible playing time for each player for the season from 1760 minutes (plus time on) prior to 2020 to 1584 minutes (plus time on) from 2021.
Constructing the fixture
I see no reason why the AFL cannot construct a two-year fixture for 2021 and 2022. No need for dates or venues until say the January before the season starts.
At the end of 2021, the fixtures committee would have a relatively simple job of allocating times and venues for the next season.
Looking back over 2020, the AFL has managed the season reasonably well and most players have fulfilled their duties without major problems and we have all been entertained.