Bring on the end of split rounds in AFL
BRING on the overhaul of the AFL fixture in 2014, and with it one change sure to please the hundreds of thousands of fantasy league participants - the removal of so many split rounds.
We have just completed the three-week stretch of six games per round, designed to give each team a break, while also trying to appease fans - and other major stakeholders - by still fixturing a fair slab of matches throughout each of the weekends.
Unfortunately the AFL erred when it decided to program so few blockbusters during this period - apart from Friday night clashes featuring Carlton and Essendon in round 11, Hawthorn and the Blues in round 12 and the Hawks and West Coast in round 13, which have been absolute rippers.
It has been a drawn-out, overly lacklustre period that has really taken the wind out of the competition's sails. If the league had scheduled a greater number of matches with greater interest it may not have been an issue. But what's done is done, and as such it should get the boot.
Byes are here to stay, but instead of these condensed rounds we may instead see all teams having a weekend - or two - off at the same time.
One of the options the AFL is looking into is a 22-round season over 24 weeks, with each team having two byes - one about round eight and the next about round 16.
The players are certainly behind the idea - and the positives for fans who may not be are that it might scale back the amount of games their favourite stars are missing due to having enforced 'rests' by their clubs.
The AFL, which is sure to be damned if it does and damned if it doesn't, certainly has a challenge on its hands to find the best format.
While league deputy chief Gillon McLachlan told Channel Seven yesterday that "If we're going to have our best athletes out there playing, I think that we have to push for two byes". But he added that "to have no football at all" would be "problematic as well".
What's certain is the idea to have every team playing each other once up until round 17 be introduced as well. There is debate about what happens next, but the top six from the previous season should then clash again in the final five weeks, and likewise the bottom and middle six.
Right now, it seems ridiculous that we've got a situation in which the Tigers and Hawks, for instance, have just clashed with Bulldogs and Eagles for a second time this season, before doing battle with each other once.
Obviously a lot of the programming is formulated around maximising the big-drawing games, and maximising the almighty dollar - and so, as an example, Collingwood always plays Essendon twice - as well as having two state derbies.
And while the Swans may get a free hit for the time being by getting play GWS twice, a special rivalry round replacing one of the equalising top six/middle six/bottom six match-ups could satisfy.
The competition is supposed to be geared around having as much fairness as possible - think the salary cap, the draft - so why not the draw as well?