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Three things the AFL can learn from the NBA finals

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14th October, 2020

Due to the COVID-extended NBA season, their finals were being played at the same time as the AFL finals.

Being an avid follower of both sports this meant that while I was watching both events I found myself comparing and contrasting how things were run. In doing so I believe I have found three things the AFL can take away from the NBA finals.

1. Quality not quantity when it comes to commentators
During the NBA finals Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson were the commentators while Rachel Nichols was the sideline reporter.

Breen is well known to be one of, if not the best NBA caller while Van Gundy and Jackson supply great insight into the game as both of them are former coaches. Normally NBA games comprise of two commentators and one sideline reporter, however, the extra caller in this case was actually added to the broadcast.

My Year 3 teacher would always go on about the importance of knowing the difference between quality and quantity and unfortunately these AFL finals series have shown that Channel 7 have not learned this lesson.

Three commentators calling the game and one sideline reporter is more than enough, however, during the AFL finals 7 has decided to cram six commentators into each game for some unknown reason.

The games so far have had four callers who struggle to get a word in over the top of each other half the time while also having two boundary riders who essentially perform the same role.

We’re six games into the AFL finals series and somehow at the most important part of the season 7 have managed to make their broadcast even worse. Hopefully they can learn from their mistakes and cut back to four callers, but I have a feeling they might just do the opposite.

NBA play-by-play announcer Mike Breen.

NBA play-by-play announcer Mike Breen.


2. Let the losers be sore
After the final buzzer sounded on Monday and the LA Lakers had clinched the championship their opponents in the Miami Heat had already headed back to the locker room.

This is a common occurrence in the NBA, as seen in 2018 when LeBron James’ Cavaliers lost in the finals and he left the court before the trophy was even seen.

Here in the AFL however we make the losing team on grand final day sit and suffer through the whole presentation, the losing captain even has to get up and give a speech.

Sure no one likes a sore loser, however, imagine if you were in the same situation after working so hard all year long you fall just short of ultimate glory. Instead of being able to grieve the lost opportunity in private, you’re forced to watch the winners receive their medals and the premiership cup in front of 100,000 people.

It’s the equivalent of having a front-row seat to your ex-girlfriend/boyfriend’s wedding – you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would enjoy that.


The end of a grand final is never about the losers, so why make the losing team watch on?

3. Just because they didn’t play on the day it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a medal
In the NBA every player who is a part of the team receives a championship ring and will forever have it on their CV regardless of how little they actually played.

For example, Jared Dudley of the LA Lakers played a grand total of two minutes and 50 seconds out of a possible 288 minutes during the finals, in which he didn’t register a single statistic. However, he will be presented a ring and be able to call himself a champion, something he took no time wasting in doing.

Here in the AFL we only award the 22 players who played on the day with a medal and the title of a premiership player. As we saw last year regardless of whether it was your first game or your 300th game, as long as you played on the day you will be awarded a premiership medal.

Now I’m not calling for an NBA-like overhaul where anyone who is on the team goes down in the record books as a premiership player, nevertheless, in some cases I do believe players who missed out on the day should be rewarded.

For example, this season Shane Edwards and Bachar Houli missed a significant part of the season for Richmond as they chose not to enter the hub due to personal reasons. As we saw last Friday night both of those players are extremely important to the Tigers, that being said in their absence Richmond went 5-2 and were able to beat top-eight teams in Brisbane and the Bulldogs.

Bachar Houli

Bachar Houli of the Tigers runs the ball. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

If Richmond were to go on to win the flag the players who played a key role during the absence of Edwards and Houli but don’t make the final 22 on the day would go unrewarded.

My proposal is if a player has played in at least eight games during the season (11 games in a 22-game season) they should get the premiership credentials as well as a medal.

In the case of Richmond that would mean players such as Mabior Chol (11 games), Jake Aarts (14 games), Jack Higgins (10 games) and Ivan Soldo (14 games) would all get medals despite not playing on the day.

My only exemption to the rule would be if a player was suspended for the grand final because of a non-football related incident. For example, Sydney Stack would still miss out this year and had the rule been applied in 2018 Andrew Gaff would have missed out too.

Coaches always say that it takes a whole squad to win a premiership and not just the 22 that play on the day, so why not give those who don’t play in the grand final some reward?