Bring forward the AFL pre-finals bye to buy some time

INJURY CONCERN: Howard Kotton says the Tigers won't win the premiership without Dustin Martin. Photo: Russell Freeman/AFL Photos via Getty Images

INJURY CONCERN: Howard Kotton says the Tigers won't win the premiership without Dustin Martin. Photo: Russell Freeman/AFL Photos via Getty Images

The AFL should bring forward the pre-finals bye to this weekend and give the competition breathing space because of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 outbreak across much of the country.

The suggestion by Brisbane chief executive Greg Swann makes a lot of sense as the AFL battles to keep the competition alive.

Having a week off now would allow the AFL, clubs, players, coaches and administrators precious time to settle down, review and decide the way forward as hopefully the latest scare passes quickly.

The week off at the end of the home and away season has become a contentious issue since it was introduced in 2016.

Many are opposed to the break at that time because there is growing evidence the winners of the two qualifying finals are at a distinct disadvantage in their preliminary finals because they have played only once in almost a month.

It has also been suggested that the AFL should introduce a wildcard weekend to replace the pre-finals bye, but the way this season is going has provided a strong argument against introducing another feature of the US sports landscape with which an influential section of the AFL hierarchy and media is so enamoured.

While the battle for seventh and eighth positions remains alive after 18 rounds, it is debatable if any of the teams currently below sixth will be worthy finalists.

West Coast (seventh) is a game clear of eighth-placed Essendon, but with an inferior percentage.

Then there is a logjam down to 13th-placed Carlton, which sits a game and just over 10 per cent behind the Bombers.

There are inequities in the draw and maybe teams outside the eight now can snatch a finals berth with a more favourable run home.

But a wildcard weekend would reward mediocrity and be nothing more than a greedy grab for revenue and ratings.

Eight teams qualify to play in the finals by winning more games and/or a better percentage than those below them - they deserve to be rewarded.

Shorter games not the answer

Geelong's Chris Scott and Patrick Dangerfield see themselves as new-age men in the modern world, but sadly they are way out of step with the game's key stakeholders, supporters, who want more action, not less.

Scott and Dangerfield persist with the argument that reducing the length of games would be a good outcome for the competition.

Sorry guys, it wouldn't be.

It might suit coach Scott with his ageing list of players, including Dangerfield, but AFL is a test of mental and physical endurance with only the strongest surviving.

Having shorter games might have been the only way to complete a season in extraordinary circumstances last year, but quite correctly it reverted to 20-minute quarters and time-on this season.

Another key stakeholder, TV broadcasters, also would not want less bang for the enormous bucks they outlay.

Less game time equates to fewer goals and therefore fewer advertisements.

Scott and Dangerfield do not have the game's best interests at heart in relentlessly pursuing this unpopular agenda.

Despite Steve Hocking's departure from the AFL to return to the Cats as CEO, Scott and Dangerfield remain well connected at League headquarters and will have to lean on others to push their views.

No doubt they will, but hopefully they won't succeed.

No Dusty, no three-peat

Richmond can forget about a three-peat - the Tigers will not win the premiership without Dustin Martin even if they make the finals.

The triple Norm Smith medallist has played a pivotal role in the Tigers' three premierships in the past four seasons and they cannot cover his loss as an influential midfielder who is such a potent force in front of goal.

While losing Martin with a kidney injury in the win over Brisbane was a huge blow, ruckman Toby Nankervis made a welcome return.

The big 'Nank' is so important to Richmond's structure with his ability to take intercept marks and provide a strong contest around the ground.

With Nankervis back and firing, the Tigers might yet make the eight with their next game against Geelong their toughest assignment in the run home.

But Richmond's campaign won't go too far into September without 'Dusty'.

Draw is a result

Predictably the season's second draw between Melbourne and Hawthorn reignited debate about whether extra time should be played in the home and away games.

I understand why there is extra time in finals given the logistics for teams travelling from interstate, but there is no need to change the rules for home and away games.

DEBATE: The season's second draw between Melbourne and Hawthorn reignited debate about whether extra time should be played. Photo: Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos/via Getty Images

DEBATE: The season's second draw between Melbourne and Hawthorn reignited debate about whether extra time should be played. Photo: Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos/via Getty Images

Quite simply, a draw is a result.

The two premiership points can be vital at the end of the season - it may prove to be the difference for the Demons with a home final and/or top-four spot up for grabs.

At the other end of the ladder, Hawthorn deserved the draw and it might be enough to help them avoid the ignominy of their first wooden spoon since 1965.

Bottom team North Melbourne, which drew with the Greater Western Sydney Giants in round 13, is a game and 12 per cent behind 17th-placed Hawthorn.

My advice to all of the media commentators and others pushing this argument of having extra time for all Australian Football League matches is to give it a rest and leave the game alone.

  • Has Howard got it right? Email: howardkotton11@gmail.com; Twitter: @hpkotton59.
This story Bringing forward the AFL pre-finals bye could buy competition some time first appeared on The Canberra Times.