AFL Rounds 11, 12, 13 – Bye Bye AFL: Memo – Grasp the light

“…I have come to think that life is a far more limited thing than those it the midst of its maelstrom realize. The light shines into the act of life for only the briefest moment – perhaps only a matter of seconds. Once it is gone and one has failed to grasp its offered revelation, there is no second chance. One may have to live the rest of one’s life in hopeless depths of loneliness and remorse. In that twilight world, one can no longer look forward to anything. All that such a person holds in his hands is the withered corpse of what should have been.” Haruki Murakami “The wind-up bird chronicle”

So what is the big idea behind a BYE WEEK that lasts THREE WEEKS?

Look. It’s a Saturday night in June. Football on the telly. A meaningful game. Enormous passion. Skills aplenty. It’s not Aussie Rules, though. The game is rugby union and the Wallabies are taking on the British and Irish Lions.

As I write, former AFL pawn Israel Folau scores a try on debut.

And that sums up the point, really.

Excepting the reborn and ever-swelling Tiger Army and the Doggies diehards, who right now are no doubt attending the only footy ground in Australia that relies on indoor growing lights to grow grass, footy attention is focussed on a different (Mr Demetriou, should that be “rival”?) code.

Thus far, no one asked to design the AFL fixture has found it possible to fit 34 games into 24 weeks.  A competition of 18 teams should, in fairness, constitute 34 rounds, over the course of which each team plays every other team twice.  But no, AFL fans are curiously resigned to the notion of their team playing in a compromised competition.

The Lions have just had a potential second try decided by the video ref as “No Try.” It’s hard not to have great admiration for the relationship that Rugby Union players and commentators seem to have with the office of the referee. Instant, unwavering respect for each decision.

Israel Folau has scored a second try just now. Gordon Bray is calling him a superstar. It’s got me wondering about the World Cup credentials of a Wallabies team featuring Ablett, Pendlebury, Fyfe, Kennedy, Selwood, Watson…

Alright AFL, we understand the draw is compromised. We understand that every club wants to play Collingwood twice for the gate receipts. We understand that “traditional blockbusters,” some going back 5 or even 10 years, must be preserved each year. But we do not understand a bye weekend that lasts three weeks.

The past three weeks in AFL football have been flatter than a Geri Halliwell song. Something has been missing. One-third of the league has been missing. On top of that, we’ve had one-sided thumpings, epic off-field scandals and truly world-class competition in other codes (tonight’s rugby, an exciting and galvanising Socceroo run for World Cup qualification over the past two weeks). It’s all meant a shrunken ability to engage with the rivalry and personal banter on which an AFL footy season relies.

–       Who have you got this week?

–       The bye. You?

–       Greater Western Sydney.

–       Oh.

Next topic.

Footy, and interest in footy lives and dies on the weekly conversation. The weekly cut and thrust at work, at home, in one’s mind. By scheduling each team to have a bye over a three week period, the AFL has diluted interest in the competition over this entire period.

The Wallabies have just had a THIRD player stretched off with either spinal cord or head injuries. I can’t imagine many parents rushing their kids down to the local rugby club tomorrow morning.

In a competition with an even number of teams, it is dubious that a bye round is even necessary in the AFL in 2013. Though perhaps it’s a condition in the players’ workplace award.  Or, more likely, a condition of the TV rights arrangement. Whatever, let us assume that a bye round is non-negotiable. For the sake of interest in AFL though, for the sake of preserving those necessary AFL conversations, future bye rounds should be conducted over a single weekend. One AFL-free weekend in the winter works much better as a celebration for everyone, rather than these three weeks of unsatisfying incompleteness.  “All that such a person holds in his hands is the withered corpse of what should have been.”

And now, we have 79 mins 30 seconds on the clock.  It’s been brilliant. Gordon Bray has explained the game so that I’ve understood it.

Wallabies 21- Lions 23

Kurtley Beale steps up to take the penalty kick to win the game for Australia.

Ah, Kurtley fluffs it. Slips on approach to the ball. Mis-kick.

Ah, well. Again, I’m impressed with the commentary team of Gordon, John Eales, Matt Burke, British gent I don’t know, who universally commiserate with Beale and laude the whole game as a spectacle, rather than, as plenty of other sports reporters would, heaping a pile of ill-deserved blame on yer man Beale. Yes, I’m very taken with aspects of this sport and the culture around it. Our AFL man Israel Folau, Kevin Sheedy disciple, declared man-of-the-match.

AFL Rounds 11, 12, 13

AFL 0 – Socceroos 2

AFL 0 – Wallabies 1

AFL 0 – Off-field drama 3

Best: Holger Osieck, Israel Folau, Haruki Murakami

Bring on Round 14.

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Brad Carr says

    Very well summarised. I fully accept players need a week off (and have sympathy for their argument for 2 during the season), but prolonging this over 3 weeks has been a monumental blunder.

    Just play 1 round over 2 weeks (could do 4 matchers on a weekend, a midweek game, 4 matches on the following weekend). Let the hiatus last for as short a period as possible, and move on.

    But the AFL has a knack for taking the simple and making it difficult…

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    “Meaningful game, enormous passion, skills a plenty”. Spot on with this David. It was a wonderful, meaningful contest. Totally captivating. Pity about Kurtly Beales last two penalty shots.

    Maybe the AFL and ARU are in it together, with the AFL scheduling a third consecutive bye to give the ARU more prominence against their mutual enemy the NRL. Probably not. But I do like the idea of the two codes ganging up on the NRL.

    Surely we won’t see 3 weeks of byes next year.

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    And couldn’t agree more with what Brad said…

  4. Some interesting discussion points in this piece, David.

  5. Kath Presdee says

    I understand that the TV rights deal requires nine games a round. Which prevents a system that the NRL and Super Rugby use where there’s teams who have byes during different rounds without disrupting the whole draw.

    Not too sure how many byes each team has in those competitions, and there’s generally split rounds for State of Origin or hiatus because of significant international tours, but maybe it’s something that the AFL can adopt.

  6. Rick Kane says

    Not sure I agree with the assessment of the Byes stretched over three weeks argument. Finey was discussing it on 1116 this morning as well. There was only one weekend bye as far as I’m concerned and that was when my team had a bye and I didn’t begrudge them that.

    This last weekend three of the season’s best games were played, including the goal after the siren comeback win by Brisbane against the mighty Cats. Not even the Wallabies gave us as intense and rollercoaster a game and narrative as that.

    “In that twilight world, one can no longer look forward to anything. All that such a person holds in his hands is the withered corpse of what should have been”.

    In fact, in the twilight of the Bye rounds we now have more to look forward to than we could have possibly expected. The Eagles, Port and yes, even the Lions head into the second half of the season believing, rightly, they are seriously in with half a shot. For a minute there we were all thinking the Top 4 was cemented. I don’t think anyone is thinking that now. That must be good for footy.

    Everyone has had a breather and now we head around the bend and towards the straight (did I get that horse racing parlance reasonably correct?) with 14 teams thinking this could be their year. That’s exciting. Now, bring it on.


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