It’s been a big first three rounds of the AFL season so let’s get down to dissecting the really important stuff of the season so far in the brand new segment – The AFL Five.
1. Split rounds
The AFL took head on the NRL and it’s early March start to the season and failed. The Foxtel only NAB challenge had generated a ‘massive’ (read: minimal) groundswell of enthusiasm for Round 1 except it finished a full 13 days before the first game. A round of practice matches ensued and then the season proper kicked off with 30,000 watching Collingwood v Fremantle at Etihad Stadium in the earliest start to a season since 2000. The AFL complained that the MCG was off limits, blaming cricket. Well, it’s not cricket’s fault that the MCG is not available for football, it’s because the AFL wanted to start their season during the cricket season that there is a problem. Anyway the split of 4 games one weekend and 5 the next did not appear popular with fans, as was pushing back the season opener of the past 7 seasons – Carlton v Richmond to Round 2. Never fear there are only 5 more weekends of split rounds this season. That’s right the 6-6-6 games in Rounds 8,9 and 10 then a split of 5-4 over two weekends for Round 18 after the AFL Players Association successfully campaigning for 2 byes per season. Split rounds and byes – they are increasing, get used to them!
2. Variable ticket pricing
Yep, this is a stinker of an idea designed purely to increase revenue from popular matches. How many more people are going to go to a Melbourne v Fremantle game because they could sit in a seat that normally costs $50 for the general admission price of $25? Not many, if any. The real misnomer here is that the AFL are being generous to fans and giving them ‘discounted’ tickets. Well until the general admission price is lowered for some games (ie only $17.50 to come watch Melbourne slug it out with someone equally inept rather than the usual $25) then ‘variable ticket pricing’ is of no real benefit to the fans.
Variable ticket pricing is blamed as one of the factors that crowd numbers are down and it’s possibly true but the AFL won’t care as 60,000 paying on average $40 is better than 70,000 paying an average of $30. As in so many things in AFL cold hard cash is the answer.
3. Runners in pink
Yes AFL runners are now wearing pink and club trainers, water cariers, doctors and physios are wearing pink vests. The AFL has seen the light that dressing runners in orange when Gold Coast and GWS wear orange was not a good idea – only took them two seasons. Unfortunately the lovely baby blue colour the runners were decked out in some games last season is gone too. Bring on the pink. Also there is only one runner per club this season down from the previous two who could work as a tag team and amazingly after 3 rounds the sky is yet to fall in.
4. Interchange cap
Another thing that astoundingly hasn’t caused the sky to fall in is the interchange cap. Yes, AFL clubs can only make 120 moves per interchange movements per game but it’s yet to cause a stir – thank goodness. Players and coaches have managed to adapt – truly unbelievable. Just wait for the wailing and gnashing of teeth when the AFL decide they want to bring in the original limit they had in mind of 80. But why did the AFL introduce the interchange cap in the first place? Initially the AFL wanted to increase the speed of the game by allowing quick kick ins from full back, four boundary umpires, shorter time for players to kick the ball from a mark and various other rule changes to speed up the game. Ultimately through some space time continuum that hasn’t been discovered the AFL believed that speeding the game up in this way would actually slow it down – the sort of knee jerk, counter intuitive stuff the AFL Laws of the Game committee does best. Anyway surprisingly it didn’t work, or more accurately there was no way of measuring or determining if it had worked so the AFL changed tack and decided to slow the games down by restricting the interchange movements. The jury is out if this latest rule change has had any effect: positive, negative or otherwise.
5. The Quote
AFL fixturing is a contentious issue as seen this year with the early start and split round not being well received. It was good to see the AFL general manager of fixturing (yes, this is a real title), Simon Lethlean, get on the front foot early about what is happening with the 2015 fixture and the Cricket World Cup which runs until the end of March. Nothing would give the fans greater comfort than knowing that the AFL fixturing guru is aware that the cricket World Cup is happening next yearat AFL venues and the complexities this poses in avoiding another dog’s breakfast meets mad woman’s shit that the start of this season has been. Nothing except perhaps if that fixturing boffin was a keen student of history. Unfortunately Lethlean is not, as quoted on the AFL website.
The Sydney Olympics caused the 2000 season to start on the first weekend in March and the Grand final was on September 2nd. Not even close, Simon, and in some miracle of ironman proportions the players played 22 games plus finals without a bye! Amazing, what a super human effort, yet just 14 years later players can’t go without 2 byes per season!
The 2006 Commonwealth Games affected the availability of the MCG for the first couple of rounds but didn’t alter the start or finish dates of the AFL season with the Grand Final on the last Saturday in September.