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The Roar



Is it fair to criticise the AFL scheduling so far this season?

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2nd May, 2023

On the surface, an 18-team competition makes it difficult to organise blockbuster matchups every week during primetime viewing given the limited options.

Travel and appropriate rest in between match days also come into the equation, with the perfect example being Collingwood and Essendon having to play on a Sunday after their Anzac Day clash five days prior to allow for considerable time off.

Balancing travel distances to allow for the league to run as fairly as possible is of utmost importance, but a tall order considering most clubs are based in Victoria.

For anyone new to the game, the complicated structure of scheduling would create the ultimate head-scratcher. Every team plays each other once in the regular season, but each side is drawn against another five random teams to make up the 22 rounds.

A 17-game season could feel too short for most, but not for a sport such as the NFL which holds its own 17-match regular season, playing every team in the same division twice while randomly matched up against eleven other opponents which makes more sense. Obviously, the AFL does not have a conference system in place like other American sports.

Personally, I don’t agree with the AFL looking abroad for inspiration to countries such as America for ideas on how to ‘improve’ Aussie Rules – but they do – and it could be something that is worth looking into, especially when expansion reaches 19 and 20 teams in the near future. An 18 or 19-round campaign before finals is well and truly practical.

Saturday night saw a dismal turnout of 29,455 at the MCG during primetime viewing involving the Melbourne Demons and North Melbourne Kangaroos. Watching a 90-point blowout was torture enough for the neutrals, on top of staring at so many empty seats.


Alastair Clarkson has injected a new lease of life into the Kangas, but with all due respect, they’re not a club that is going to help attract big crowds at the ‘G. It was a Dees home game, but even most of their supporters seemed to have better plans organised.

This is not to say that North doesn’t deserve to play on a Saturday night. Surely the AFL is able to adjust the scheduling where they can change some venues, such as moving the game to Launceston for a North home match or a game up in Darwin which would result in fewer empty seats and more of a spectacle. If you were not entertained and wished to switch channels, disappointment would follow onto the Eagles and Blues match in Perth on the same night where Carlton ran riot in a 108-point demolition.

Despite a high crowd attendance of 47,940 at Optus Stadium, this is a West Coast outfit under Adam Simpson who is desperately struggling to stay afloat and dish up any sort of respectable performance. To have two games scheduled for a Saturday night which on paper looked totally one-sided looks like a mistake from the outside looking in.

As mentioned before, two of the biggest drawcards for attendance and offering marquee matches needed time off to recover. In saying that, could the AFL have reviewed these types of scenarios before releasing the fixtures and adjusted accordingly? The Sydney Derby would have been a great replacement for either.

Speaking of drawcards, the Bombers recorded 86,000 members last year and are more than capable of producing attraction for the big duels. Yet, they are not pencilled in to play a single Thursday or Friday night game until at least Round 16 as times and dates are still to be confirmed. It just strikes me as very strange.

Essendon's Will Setterfield celebrates.

Essendon’s Will Setterfield celebrates kicking a goal. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)


It should be stressed that some Thursday and Friday night matches have proven to be a hit such as Geelong-Collingwood and Brisbane-Collingwood. Are there better options out there than a Friday night Fremantle-Bulldogs clash and a more suitable canopy for the Good Friday fixture though?

The Crows opened proceedings for the inaugural round, and rightfully so. However, could Port Adelaide have been part of the occasion to create an unprecedented showdown clash? Of course, it’s natural to expect mistakes when experimenting with something new, but this was an opportunity missed for the AFL to really capitalise on.

Overall, the crowd numbers suggest that it has been a successful season thus far and some may feel as though it could be a case of nit-picking. As for everything though, there’s always room for improvement whether it be big or small.