Geelong coach Chris Scott has criticised the proposed wildcard round, declaring it would only further expose the AFL as “one of the most compromised competitions that you can possibly imagine”.
Incoming AFL chief executive Andrew Dillon met with all 18 club CEOs this week and discussed the fixture, the placement of byes and potential changes to the finals system.
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The league is considering introducing a wildcard round before finals in a bold proposal that would shake up the traditional top eight system.
It would be similar to the NBA’s play-in tournament, which has proved a huge success since it was established in 2020.
If approved, the wildcard round would pit seventh against tenth and eighth against ninth on the weekend that is currently reserved for the pre-finals bye.
A wildcard round would enable the AFL to drag out the race for the top eight and maintain interest during the pre-finals bye, which has become a dead zone since it was introduced in 2016 to prevent teams from resting half their team in the last round of the season.
Two-time premiership coach Scott wasn’t a huge fan of the idea, pointing out the fact there are 24 rounds for an 18-team competition, means the AFL fixture is inherently uneven and unfair.
For instance, only some teams get to play weaker teams like West Coast and North Melbourne twice in a season.
“We just have, in elite sport by global standards, one of the most compromised competitions that you can possibly imagine,” Scott said.
“Uneven numbers (of games against opponents), let’s just throw in a Gather Round, compromise the competition even more, if these things are really, really important from a fan perspective or from a commercial perspective they are worthy of thought.
“I would just ask the integrity of the competition is given as much thought.”
If it’s introduced, the wildcard round would be another change to the AFL fixture after the season was extended from 23 to 24 rounds to accommodate the Gather Round in Adelaide.
“We’re going to be in Adelaide for another three years aren’t we, for Gather Round? I’m assuming they’re all Showdowns,” Scott said.
“It kind of has to (compromise the integrity of the competition) on first blush, but on the other side of it, I’m a big advocate of thinking these things through.
“If we think out loud in public, no one should be held to account for those thought bubbles, I think they’re good to publicly debate.
“Maybe when you’re administering a competition the integrity of the actual, and the fairness of the draw, should be pretty close to your number one priority.
“Usain Bolt doesn’t start at a 10-metre disadvantage in the Olympics final just because he’s better than everyone else, but we’re sort of forced into that situation because it’s probably right that if Collingwood win the premiership that they shouldn’t have the easiest draw the following year.
“To actively manipulate it to make the competition more even is a conversation worth having, and would the wildcard help it or hurt it? I haven’t thought through it enough.”