Latest News

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Fix the AFL’s rules? No, fix the fixture instead

There’s been so much talk about new numbers amid the endless rule-change conversations over the past several weeks.
A 6-6-6 set-up at centre bounces. Reducing the number of interchanges from 90. A goalsquare measuring 18m.
But there’s one number that should be front-and-centre to any changes the AFL could potentially make: 17.
That is, reduce the amount of games in a season from 22 to 17.
It’s a way to not only improve the product, but more importantly, massively reduce the compromised nature of the fixture from year to year.
Each club would play each other club once per season. Fixtures would be drawn up in two-year blocks, ensuring an even number of home and away games and match-ups over that span.
There’s no way a 34-game season where everyone plays each other home and away could work, so it’s the next best thing.
The best way to remove any perception of which clubs have an easier or harder ‘extra’ five contests a year is to remove those contests altogether.
Reducing the number of matches also means far fewer ‘dead’ games toward the end of the season. The stakes increase. There’s a lot more riding on each contest. And while 17 games is still a long time to have the ladder sort itself out, you ramp up the chances of a ring-a-ding battle for finals positions in the closing rounds.
Imagine if last weekend’s games – each club’s 17th of the season – had been their last. Hawthorn’s late scoring flurry in an otherwise snooze-fest contest against Carlton would have been must-watch TV, with the Hawks ultimately edging above Geelong and into the top eight by the barest of percentage.
We may well get that kind of late-season drama again after 22 matches this season (much like last year), but you bump up the odds of it happening with a shorter campaign.
The NFL consists of a 16-game season for each team. It’s the most well-attended sporting competition in the world, and games are must-watch television due to their cut-throat nature. A three or four-game losing streak can cruel your chances. Just about every game means something.
Furthermore, a shorter AFL campaign also unlocks other opportunities for fresher players like State of Origin. It could prolong careers. The standard of play goes up because bodies aren’t as worn down. Less can definitely be more.
The overriding hurdle standing in the way of this change, of course, is money. We’re talking about 45 fewer matches to be broadcast on TV and attended by fans. That’s why we’re unlikely to ever see such a proposal even half-seriously considered.
But in the interest of integrity, and adding a bit more meaning to plenty of late-season contests, 17 is the number I’d like to see the AFL look at before any other rule adjustments.


« PREV
NEXT »