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the pre-season winner NAB cup would play in the finals ?

The AFL's pre-season has always been a farce. Back when it was a proper competition with a grand final and an eventual winner, it was still a hollow victory as only some teams would take it seriously, and these were usually the teams that had no chance of winning any silverware in the season proper. The AFL has since changed the pre-season to take make the results largely meaningless as each team plays what are essentially three practice matches in regional areas, taking the game to new areas.
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire said it was time to bring back the old-style competition with a finals system and reward the winner with a spot in the finals series of the regular season. Is this a good idea?

For
Fans only have two reasons for watching pre-season games. The first is seeing some of their young players in action, casting forward and trying to guess as to whether they will make it or not. The second is making sure that none of their players get injured. As a contest it is sketchy at best as you are never sure if your team is trying to win, or simply get the right amount of game time into your players.
The same goes for your team's opponent in any given pre-season week. Having a competition with something on the line ensures all teams will be taking the competition seriously and should ensure plenty of fans through the gates and more at home watching on TV.
Having a pre-season competition with something on the line would also have the benefit of generating more buzz for the start of the season proper, with additional sponsorship, TV rights money and ticket revenue on offer for all teams, while sucking some of the air out of sporting rivals like soccer, rugby league and rugby union.

Against
McGuire's proposal is a logistical nightmare. Assuming a team qualifies for the finals by virtue of winning 'the NAB Cup', what is their motivation during the regular season? Sure, they will still want to win as many games as possible against the best teams because winning form is good form, but surely it would be tough for the players to play at 100 per cent intensity knowing they were already guaranteed of playing finals. Players would be rested whenever the coach deemed it necessary, giving that team a massive advantage or targeting the games they really wanted to win.
Another logistical problem is working out who the pre-season winner would play in the finals. Do you change the system entirely to accommodate the new qualifier, or is it assumed the qualifier finishes eighth if they don't have enough points to make the traditional eight at the end of the home and away season? What happens if they do finish inside the top eight? What draft picks do they get if they finish 16th at the end of the home and away season and are bundled out in the first week of the finals?

Our verdict
We would love a pre-season competition that brought at least some of the excitement and interest of the regular season, so any suggestion that gets us closer to that shouldn't be dismissed too quickly. However, McGuire's proposal would attack the integrity of the regular season and that is taking things a step too far.
The AFL definitely won't allow it to happen, and nor should it. Back when it was a 16-team competition most fans would always plump for scrapping the pre-season and allowing all teams to play each other twice, but that is no longer viable. Unfortunately we don't have a solution to the pre-season conundrum, but if you think you've got an idea that might one-up Eddie then feel free to share in the comments below.


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