Further attention was given over the past couple of weeks to the proposed ’17-5’ model for the AFL fixture. Under this model, after 17 rounds the clubs would split into three groups. The top six clubs would play off for a double chance in the finals, the next six clubs would play for the last two spots in the finals, and the bottom six clubs would play off to win the top draft picks. The aims of the new system appear to be to have more meaningful matches towards the end of the season, and to alleviate ‘tanking’ – i.e. clubs more or less deliberately losing matches to get a lower ladder position and higher draft picks.
I don’t like the idea of radically changing the fixture to stop ‘tanking’. Actually Cameron Rose over at ‘The Roar’ pretty much summed up how I feel about it. In Australian Rules no one player can make a huge difference to a club – no, not even Patrick Dangerfield – and hence there is not really that much difference between getting the #1 draft pick, as opposed to the #2, #3, or #4 draft pick. In a league like the NBA, where one player can make a massive difference, there is a much higher incentive to ‘tank’. But I don’t think in the AFL that ‘tanking’ is enough of a problem – or shouldn’t be if clubs are aware of the ‘true’ value of what they are losing for – to warrant overhauling the fixture.
The argument that a ’17-5’ fixture would create more meaningful matches has more merit. This argument seemed relevant to me this week as there were four matches I was interested in because they contained two good clubs and finals hopefuls – Power/Dogs, Cats/Roos, Eagles/Crows, and Giants/Swans. Indeed for the rest of the season these are probably the only clubs, along with the Hawks, that I will bother paying attention to – apart from Richmond as I support them, and whichever club they are playing. So if there were more matches between these clubs I would almost certainly pay attention to more AFL matches.
Still, I haven’t come around to the ’17-5’ model yet. Like many footy fans I’m attached to the ‘home-and-away’ fixture, and having a final ‘home-and-away’ ladder.
The most notable thing about the rankings this week is that the Greater Western Sydney Giants, with their win over cross-town ‘rivals’ Sydney, have moved into second spot. For a lot of their history I have described the Giants’ performances as being something like ‘diabolically bad’, or at best just bad. Well, no more. Not only do they have the league’s second-best theme song, the Giants are now ‘very good’. The Giants are a premiership contender. I still can’t quite get my head around it either.