A draw or a Fixture by John Sandy


Some months ago when stuck in a car with three kids on the road to nowhere I bored my wife by creating a couple of possible options for ‘the league’ to create a fair and transparent fixture draw that was based on a formula depending on where teams finished the previous season.


A simple version of this was recently discussed by Bert Dalton on the footy almanac site. Reading this piece motivated me to share my thoughts with someone other than a wife who, whilst being a sports lover, doesn’t really share the 24/7 passion about all the trivial, yet important, components of our great game.


Below I will propose 2 possible versions, Anderson and Demetriou take your pick.


Version Anderson


As of 2012 we have an 18 team competition so the first 17 rounds could be simply against each of the other teams. Providing the league want a 22 round season that leaves each team to play against 5 sides a second time. This could be decided by positions from the previous season; teams who finished 1 – 6 would play one another twice, teams who finished 7 – 12 would play one another twice, teams who finished 13 – 18 would play one another twice. Based on the just completed 2011 H&A season the teams would be grouped as follows.

Pool A: Collingwood, Geelong, Hawthorn, West Coast, Carlton, St Kilda

Pool B: Sydney, Essendon, North Melbourne, Western Bulldogs, Fremantle, Richmond

Pool C: Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Port Adelaide, Gold Coast, GWS


Possible challenges about this system

  1. Teams don’t always perform to the same level the following year. Whilst this is true I’m not sure how else to do this apart from creating a draw for the final 5 rounds after 17 rounds. This is obviously not practical.
  2. Teams finishing 7th and 8th have an advantage. It probably does but in an age when the AFL are trying to promote football socialism (eg draft, salary cap) I think this fits the bill. Whilst I would love my team to win every year I think turn over of sides at the top (and the bottom for that matter) is a good thing. It gives sides an opportunity to rise from the middle of the ladder mire without the need for finishing near the bottom to obtain high draft picks.
  3. It does not allow for the AFL to manipulate ‘the draw’. We all know that the league want to manipulate ‘the draw’ to cash in on particular clashes so I propose a slight modification of this idea that can be prescribed by ladder positions but allow the league some manipulation. Whilst I don’t agree with this, it still allows the league to fixture big ticket matches such as derbies, showdowns, clashes and dare I say it Anzac day, Queen’s Birthday, Dreamtime at the G should the AFL so desire.


Version Demetriou


Also based around the concept of teams being split into 3 pools based on their previous year’s ladder positions.


Teams play 3 from their pool and 1 from each of the other two pools. This addresses all three challenges (or possible flaws) in my initial version.


In an unusual twist the 2 Queensland sides and the 2 South Australian sides all finished in this year’s bottom 5. These ‘manipulations’ are therefore not quite as necessary or effective. Below is a possibility of how it could look.


Pool A Teams from 1 – 6 Teams from 7 – 12 Teams from 13 – 18
Coll Gee, Haw, Carl Ess Melb
Gee Coll, Haw, St K Syd Adel
Haw Gee, Coll, WC North Bris
West Coast Carl, St K, Haw Freo Port
Carlton WC, St K, Coll Rich GC
St Kilda WC, Carl, Gee WB GWS


Pool B Teams from 7 – 12 Teams from 1 – 6 Teams from 13 – 18
Ess Syd, North, Rich Coll Melb
Syd Ess, North, Freo Syd GWS
North Ess, Syd, WB Haw Adel
WB North, Freo, Rich St K Bris
Freo Rich, WB, Syd WC Port
Rich Freo, Ess, WB Carl GC


Pool C Teams from 13 – 18 Teams from 1 – 6 Teams from 7 – 12
Melb GWS, Adel, Bris Coll Ess
Adel Port, Melb, Bris Gee Syd
Bris GC, Melb, Adel Haw North
Port Adel, GC, GWS West Coast WB
GC Bris, Port, GWS Carlton Freo
GWS Melb, Port, GC St Kilda Rich


I am not sure if this is the answer but at least it is based on some sort of system instead of the manipulation currently in place.



  1. You explained this to your wife and she’s still with you???

  2. The only way these systems work (if you consider a balanced draw a working result), is for the AFL to pull back on the notion that blockbusters showdowns, derbys etc must be maximised. The system I propose onmy blog (http://m-365.blogspot.com/p/making-18-teams-and-22-rounds-work.html) works well. That said, it requires the AFL to yield on maximising the blockbusters and accepting a degree of fairness/even-ness and also an ‘it is what it is’ philosophy.

    Anyway, have a look at my proposal and let me know what you think.

  3. To TKYC
    First of all it is pleasing to know that i am not the only one who is searching for some sort of fairness or idealism. I like your system as its transparent and based on something other than the afl deciding who plays who.

    My 2nd system (AKA Version Demetriou) recognises that the afl want to (and will) control who plays who and as a result i tried to modify my original system to allow for them to ‘lock in’ certain matches whilst still having a set structure to creating “the draw”

  4. Agree with you notes about the Demetriou version… AFL wants to have a fixed (i.e. rigged) draw.
    In what I propose, there is till scope to ‘set’ games into particular spots (eg Anzac Day etc), as at least each team plays a minimum of one game v everyone else.
    It doesn’t guarantee double blockbusters or derbys/showdowns etc. But it is quite transparent, continues to mix the make-up of the conferences (so you dont have strong groups and weaker groups) and varies the travel obligations.

    The AFL now have a big chance for structural reform. Punters cry out for fairness in the draw, the league is making squillions in revenue and dominating media. Now is the time for them to seize a chance for reform, return to a sense of fairness and order, and reject the dominance of big clubs at the expense of others.

    Interesting also that the AFL doesn’t want players/officials betting on games and affecting results (as it creates a bad image), yet they have no issue fiddling the draw the affect clubs (membership, coverage, revenue etc). To me, its a double standard that need addressing, and with revolution that is an 18 team comp., now is the time.

    PS thanks for dropping by my site… I’m working on adding more detail, such as worked examples etc.

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