The Roar
The Roar


'Dripping in inequality and stupidity': Footy is back... and so is AFL interference

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19th March, 2024
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It’s good to have the footy back, of course, but why does the AFL have to make it so hard for us to love it?

Opening Round, or Round 0, or whatever we want to call it, was a poor way to start the season, not least for the stupidity of the name.

Poor old Richmond was 0-2 with their season over, before more than half the teams had even played a game. Never mind the fact the Tigers were asked to play off a five-day break when they had played during the heat of the Gold Coast day, as opposed to Carlton off an extra day’s break and playing in cooler night conditions.

Collingwood was off a six-day break in Round 1, against Sydney having eight days between matches, with the latter team winning accordingly. Melbourne, Gold Coast and GWS used their match fitness in Round 0 to lead them to victory against teams that had not yet played. Not only that, the Suns and Giants were gifted two home games to open the season, when there was no reason that should have been the case, apart from the AFL desperately wanting and needing those clubs to succeed.

Carlton and Brisbane now have an early season bye already, not playing this week in Round 2, and will play different sides in Round 3, all of them coming off different platforms. Maybe it will make a difference, and maybe it won’t, but it’s just plain stupid all the same.

If the AFL wants to start the season away from the heartland of Victoria, go for it. But why not make a celebration of it, and play two games in each of Queensland, NSW, South Australia and Western Australia? Perhaps complemented by a match in Hobart or Darwin, or failing that, a one-off marquee match-up at the MCG.

Starting the season early certainly isn’t in the best interest of player welfare. At least six players have already had a season-ending knee injury this year, along with a couple more earlier in pre-season, let alone a number of other significant knee injuries. History says that more of these injuries occur earlier in the season, when grounds are at their firmest.


The AFL will of course crow about Opening Round having great crowds, followed by Round 1 breaking attendance records, and pat themselves on the back for a job well done. People love their clubs and they love the game, and would attend if the season was launched at 2am in Mexico on December 29.

In Round 0, Gold Coast v Richmond drew 22,086, while GWS and Collingwood had 21,235 at the ground. Just a week later, the two host clubs didn’t even draw 20,000 between them. Well done Andrew Dillon, you proved that Tigers and Pies supporters will book a holiday to watch their first game of the year. I wonder what sort of bonus you’ll get for that incredible insight.

Chad Warner and Errol Gulden celebrate a goal.

Chad Warner and Errol Gulden celebrate a goal. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

So now the first seven weeks is played in fits and starts, some teams playing some weeks, all teams playing others. Sometimes the clubs having a bye will play each other the week after, sometimes they won’t. A basic level playing field, which should be a cornerstone for professional sports, has not been achieved.

But perhaps that is the AFL’s one consistent quality. The fixture itself is always dripping in inequality and stupidity, some clubs having several five-day breaks and other clubs having none. Let’s not get started on the mid-season byes and how they are structured.


The rules and maths around free agency compensation are kept secret. Father-sons, academies and the points system compromise the national draft more every year. Some teams get to play 100 per cent of their home games at their home stadium (plus some more besides), while others get far less. Rules get changed on a whim, and interpretations of those rules change on a weekly basis, sometimes with forewarning and other times not. We can only laugh at goal-line technology and the match review system for fines and suspensions.

Despite all of this, we tune in every year, and will continue to do so, and we’ve seen some great footy already this season. Low-performing clubs like Essendon, Hawthorn, North Melbourne and West Coast are trying to play the right way, based on their first game. The Bulldogs don’t have much life about them, and could be in for a long year. GWS and Sydney have flown out of the gates, looking quick and classy, already the teams to catch. The fascinating story is Collingwood and Brisbane stumbling to a 0-2 start.

We love the footy in spite of the AFL, not because of them.