22 or bust

For twenty-two lucky footballers, Saturday afternoon will see them presented with a premiership medal. Those who don’t make the 22? Tough break, see you later.

The AFL have made a series of strange decisions throughout their history. Most of them worked out for the best and were widely accepted. One such thing that is widely accepted is that only the 22 men on the field for the winning sidepremiership-medal on Grand Final day deserve a premiership medal.

Yes, according to the AFL the only players who contribute to winning the Grand Final are the ones who run out on the day. They’re looking at you Bob Murphy and Aliir Aliir – you’ve done nothing for your club this season (or at least that’s what Gil and his buddies are trying to tell you).

The paragraph preceding this is ludicrous, and it was fully intended to read as such. If it wasn’t for Aliir and Murphy, neither of the sides who run out on Saturday would be in the position they are. The pair have played very different roles for the club, but they are both a vital cog in the machine.

What logic could there possibly be from the AFL for not awarding medals to a wider scope than the selected 22? Tradition is the main argument, in that because it’s the way it has always been done it is the way it should continue to be done.

In that case I’m looking forward to Fitzroy and South Melbourne opening the season at Lakeside Oval in 2017. Wait? That’s not the progress the AFL want? Of course, how silly of me for thinking they’d like to be at the forefront of something.

In a twitter poll which I ran yesterday (yes, that’s progress) the majority of respondents believed that medals should be awarded to more than the 22 named for the decider. The common consensus was that it takes more than 22 men to win a flag, even if they are the ones responsible on the day.

There’s always the “where to you draw the line” counter argument, although all that argument tells me is that some people aren’t willing to have a go at drawing up alternativeso. Here are a few off the top off my head:

 

  • Every player on the senior list gets a medal – Making an AFL senior list isn’t an easy task. There are guys who don’t play a game all year, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t put in the same amount of work on the track.
  • Everyone who plays a game throughout the season – Easy enough – if you run out with the seniors once throughout the year you get a medal.
  • Percentage of games played throughout the year – Only a handful from outside the 22 will play more than a third of the games all season. Under the current draw, players who play seven or more games should be eligible for a premiership medal. That would leave 30 players eligible for medals from the Dogs this season compared with 28 for the Swans.
  • Coach’s pick – Three extra medals given to the club with the senior coach deciding who receives the medals.
  • Long service – Any player who has played more than 75% of games for a club in the last five years and is still on the senior list receives a medal.

Not all of those options are perfect. I’m certain that a few of those would cause animosity for any player who was to just miss out.

Then there are the staff of any professional sporting organisation. Coaches, media, marketing, finance, fan engagement, customer service, the list goes on. Every employee of a football club deserves recognition for their effort throughout the season. A great way to set them apart would be to give non-players championship rings instead of medals.

The AFL often wax lyrical about how the sport is the ultimate team game. It’s time for them to face the fact that they need to reward entire organisations for Grand Final glory, not just the men who are lucky enough to be selected on the day..

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Bye week no issue

One of the biggest talking points of the 2016 AFL season was the decision to schedule a bye week between the home-and-away season and the finals. 

Two games and percentage was all that separated first and seventh on the AFL ladder after 23 rounds of football. The smallest gap between first and seventh outside of that this decade? Three games. With the numbers showing that this has been the tightest season in years, should it be any surprise that the Bulldogs have come from seventh to be within four quarters of ending a 55-year drought? No.afl1stpreliminaryfinalgwsvwesternbulldogsepte0p-vqsdl

That’s not the directive being taken by members of the AFL and some media personalities, however. According to Gil Mclachlan, without the bye the Bulldogs would not be where they are, with Mclachlan claiming that the bye enabled them to field a stronger squad throughout their finals campaign.

He may well be right, but every club was afforded that right with the week off, so it becomes irrelevant. Furthermore Mclachlan suggested that both the Giants and Cats were a victim of the bye week. To anyone who watched both games it was clear they were a victim of being outplayed on the day of their Preliminary Final.

The losses of the Giants and Cats on the weekend mark the only occasion since 2000 (when the current finals format started) where both Qualifying Final winners lost their Preliminary Final. Perhaps rather than looking at the results of two games, look at the unpredictability in the 23 rounds that preceded what has become one of the most talked about finals series in a decade. That’s why the Swans and Dogs are gracing the MCG on Saturday afternoon – because they got through every hurdle that was placed in their way.

A cynic (not me personally, but I’m sure we could find five or ten thousand) would suggest that Gil and others are upset because the Grand Final isn’t the marquee Greater Western Sydney V Sydney or Greater Western Sydney V Geelong game that many pundits had mentioned throughout the year.  On the balance of play across the weekend, the two teams who deserve to be there are.

There was talk on 1116 SEN  this morning that the AFL have broken something by implementing the bye week. There were many skeptics when it was announced (myself included), yet looking at the quality of football that has continued throughout the season I think it has been a great addition to the year.

Roll on Saturday.