Ahh good. Great. It’s the off-season, which means as far as AFL figures are concerned, the “say stupid shit” window is wide open once again. Wonderful. And in this year’s Double Jeopardy category of “deadshit ideas from assholes,” comes an apparent push spearheaded by at least the Sydney Swans front office and possible even the Adelaide Crows as well to make the Grand Final a best-of-three series.
What rot. What piffle. What absolute ass.
But screw it. Let’s discuss.
This particularly galaxy brained idea has bubbled to the surface of footy media thanks to reports that Adelaide head coach Don Pyke made a considered push for it after the Crows’ disastrous 2017 Grand Final mauling. Since it broke this week, incoming Sydney Swans boss Tom Harley has stated the concept has “genuine merit“; it’s a position long-held by the Swans incumbent CEO Andrew Ireland, who has frequently asserted the league should adopt a best-of-three series for the season decider.
It’s also a shitty idea, and it’s predicated on a series of talking points constantly pushed by the AFL’s “interstate” or non-Melbourne based teams, all of which are misguided. They being:
- The AFL is an unfair league, and it shouldn’t be.
- The league is fundamentally structured to favour Melbourne clubs.
- The MCG’s stranglehold on the Grand Final deliberately holds back other cities and stadiums who are capable and worthy of hosting the game.
- Asking interstate teams to play Melbourne teams in a Grand Final at the MCG is an unnatural disadvantage, particularly when the interstate side finishes higher on the ladder than their opponent.
So here we go.
THE AFL IS AN UNFAIR LEAGUE
Yes it is. But under no circumstances should it ever be anything else.
Every facet of this dumbass sport has been cobbled together ad hoc by reactionary lunatics without forethought or forward planning. The resulting steaming pile of administrative mess more closely resembles a stack of burning tyres than anything akin to its more “beautiful” world sport relatives.
It is inexplicable, nonsensical, needlessly complicated, and it absolutely rules. It is cruel, often frustrating, rarely joyful, rotten to the core, and exudes beauty far beyond the abilities of most acclaimed artists. A horrible, clunky ballet of the most breathtakingly crapulent order. It is the drunk baby driving a Porsche of sports.
That’s why it works.
AFL club heads have for years engaged in a quest to find this almost mythical “equalisation” level. That’s a red herring. There is no equal in football, and never will be. There is only an uncapped arms race fuelled by murderous corporate killbots tasked with cutting the heads off of 17 bitter rivals in the name of delivering yearly financial earnings in the red. Which brings me to the second point.
THE LEAGUE IS STRUCTURED TO FAVOUR MELBOURNE CLUBS
No fucken shit.
There’s ten clubs in Victoria, nine in the greatest Melbourne region alone. Up until 1990 it was known as the Victorian Football League. The league administration is headquartered in Melbourne. There is no national football league without the city of Melbourne. When the large Melbourne clubs are firing on the field, everyone benefits. TV viewership and game attendance figures go up. Ad revenue goes up. Broadcast rights agreements go up. Everyone benefits.
But the flipside is that while being at the top in Melbourne is great, being at the bottom in Melbourne is purgatory. Based in any other city, the Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne, and St Kilda might have perished a long time ago. Hell, it wasn’t so long ago that the league was staring down the barrel of a competition without Hawthorn in it. That’s unthinkable now.
And while the AFL has poured money into interstate clubs in recent times, particularly those above the Barassi Line, adjusting the Grand Final to a three-game series is a dangerous over-correction with farther-reaching consequences than anyone might realise. To that end, point the third.
OTHER CITIES AND STADIUMS CAN, AND SHOULD, HOST A GRAND FINAL
Bullshit. Absolute bullshit.
Here’s a hot take for you: There is only one city even remotely capable of hosting an AFL Grand Final other than Melbourne: Adelaide.
Not Perth, and sure as shit not Sydney or Brisbane.
Perth, despite its fancy new stadium, cannot host a Grand Final. It barely managed to host a prelim. The hotly anticipated Grand Final qualifier between West Coast and Melbourne was a complete sell out, but forced interstate travellers to fork out absurd amounts of money to attend. At one stage, it was cheaper to fly from Melbourne via Singapore than it was to fly direct. The Grand Final must always be accessible to all fans, and Perth – at this stage – does not have the logistical capacity to cope.
The reasons against Sydney and Brisbane are much simpler: the SCG and the Gabba suck ass.
The Gabba is a disgusting hovel of a stadium ferociously guarded by a cricket-obsessed bridge troll of a groundskeeper who would very much prefer it if the sport of football ceased to exist, while the NSW Government has made it abundantly clear that they simply do not care about any stadium in the state that isn’t rectangular shaped.
Adelaide is the only city capable of hosting a Grand Final, being the only state comparable to Victoria in its footy fanaticism (there’s an alternate timeline somewhere out there where Melbourne has two teams in a SANFL-ran national league where Sturt and Glenelg have hoisted AFL flags). And Adelaide Oval is one of the most picturesque stadiums in the world, let alone just Australia.
But if that’s the argument to be made, then Melbourne wins purely on seating capacity. The MCG holds the most people and maintains the best atmosphere of any stadium in Australia, bar none. And with that, the final point.
PLAYING THE GRAND FINAL AT THE MCG DISADVANTAGES NON-MELBOURNE TEAMS
It’s not a coincidence that this push for a best-of-three Grand Final series comes from the Swans and Adelaide, who both endured historic shitting-of-the-beds in the 2016 and 2017 Grand Finals respectively. It’s the same kind of rank first-stage-of-grief ass nonsense that had Collingwood fans signing petitions to get umpiring decisions overturned after this year’s heartbreaker.
The Swans in particular are guilty of incessant whinging on this issue. It’s not fair they lost their cost of living allowance. It’s not fair they had trade restrictions imposed upon them. It’s not fair they had to play the 2016 Grand Final in Melbourne despite finishing well above the Western Bulldogs on the ladder. All charges which may hold at least some water. But on the other hand, it’s also not fair that South Melbourne fans had to watch their club limp up the Hume and have some pill-pushing charlatan pump them full of pharma money. That’s football, baby.
Since the league went truly national in 1987, when West Coast and Brisbane entered the then-VFL, non-Victorian teams have competed in 20 out of the 33 Grand Finals contested. In 17 of those games, a non-Victorian side has faced off against a Victorian side. In those games, interstate teams have a record of 9-8.
When playing Melbourne teams in Grand Finals on the MCG, non-Victorian sides have won more often than they have lost.
In what backwards-ass world could you look at a record like that and think the game was anything other than fair and balanced? In fact, it’s only thanks to a string of recent Victorian wins that the ledger even looks like that close. Prior to Hawthorn’s 2013 flag, non-Victorian sides held a 9-3 lead over Victorian counterparts in MCG Grand Finals.
Disadvantage my hefty ass.
The MCG is undoubtedly a difficult ground to play on come Grand Final day, but eating shit on the day is not an issue of administrative bias, it’s an issue of your shitty team cooking it. Plain and simple.
The Grand Final should forever be one game, at the MCG, for all the marbles.
Any suggestion to the contrary is little more than hokey bloviating from insecure morons. Thank you.Image: Getty Images / Michael Dodge