Almanac Footy (Solutions): Wild Card final for the Crows could be a win-win solution



I am writing as a pretty parochial ‘Victorian’ (though now a long-term NT resident) who supports Geelong in the AFL and Fitzroy in the VAFA. I would not normally go into bat for the Adelaide Crows – but I don’t think that any club should have to endure what they and their fans did last weekend in the final minutes against Sydney.


In addition, this game had far wider implications than just on Sydney, who cemented a finals’ spot, and Adelaide, whose run at the finals subsequently ended. By dint of the Swans one point win in controversial circumstances, the chance to play finals has also been denied to both Essendon and Geelong.


In addition, both GWS and the Western Bulldogs have also been direct beneficiaries with their chance to play finals increased with three potential rivals for a finals spot now out of contention.


Had the goal to Adelaide been correctly awarded in the dying minutes and they managed to hang on for the remaining minute or so – the ladder from positions 5 to 12 would have looked like this:


5 Carlton                54

6 St Kilda                52

7 GWS                     48

8 Sydney                46

9 Adelaide             44

10 W Bulldogs      44

11 Essendon         44

12 Geelong            42


This scenario would have seen some fascinating clashes in the final round with a myriad of possibilities in terms of the final make-up of the top eight. But the AFL and footy fans have been robbed of this opportunity.


On recent form Collingwood are no guarantee to defeat Essendon this weekend. Geelong at home would be confident of their chances against the Western Bulldogs and Adelaide would fancy their chances against the West Coast Eagles. With Sydney facing off against 4th placed Melbourne, they would have been vulnerable in 8th spot.


Depending on how results fell, any one of the four sides just outside the eight, Adelaide, the Western Bulldogs, Essendon, or Geelong could have snuck into the eight. What a tantalising scenario this would have been. Instead, given the Adelaide-Sydney result, the only possible change to the final eight could be for the Western Bulldogs to replace GWS.


For me it is not just about ‘that’ game, but the image and integrity of the game of footy itself. What happened on the weekend is not a good look for Aussie Rules footy. Sport, like life, isn’t always fair. But it should never be this blatantly unjust.


Good on the AFL and CEO for taking responsibility for what happened and I am aware that Adelaide are likely in discussions around some form of compensation – possibly financial as well as draft pick concessions for 2024. However, I wonder if a more immediate and creative solution could be found.


Given that we have a precedent for a wild card system in the VFL finals this year a more appropriate and immediate solution could be provided, contingent on Adelaide winning this weekend, to give the Crows a spot in a ‘wild card’ final in the upcoming bye round – with Sydney as their opponent, with the winner to progress through to the final 8.


There would clearly need to be some dialogue around final positions in the 8, but while a completely different scenario, in 2013 Essendon were disqualified from the finals and the final eight was rearranged with Port Adelaide moving from 8th to 7th and Carlton moving from 9th to 8th.


This could create a win-win scenario. It would provide a sense of justice for Adelaide, and a bonanza for the AFL. Can you imagine the interest from all footy fans? It would be a definite ratings winner. It could also represent a gesture of goodwill by Sydney – who were inadvertently significant beneficiaries of the decision not to call for a review of the goal umpire’s decision. As an aside, I heard one Sydney supporter on national radio this week describe the Swans win as a hollow victory.


In addition, a gesture of goodwill could also be extended to the umpire at the centre of the controversy by offering him the chance to goal umpire the game. I am certain he will never make the same mistake again and would call for a review whenever necessary!


It could be argued that offering a wild card for a final to one team would set a precedent that could be exploited in the future. Another argument might be that other goal umpiring mistakes made during the year had also cost sides games, thereby potentially impacting the make-up of the final eight.


This, however, was a clear system error (not simply an umpiring mistake) and the AFL have taken responsibility for it. There is no payment or draft pick that could ever replace the four points that Adelaide were potentially denied. But a more immediate and appropriate solution can be found, if there is the courage to do so.


Post Script: if Adelaide didn’t end up wining against the West Coast Eagles in the final round, I’d be very happy for a wild card offer to be extended to whoever finishes in 9th place.



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About Jonathan PILBROW

I grew up in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne I left Melbourne in 1993 moving to country NSW and then subsequently Mparntwe/Alice Springs, where I have lived for over 24 years. I have a background in social work and have spent the last 20 years working in Social Policy. I have always been a bit of an eclectic supporter of Aussie Rules - falling in love with game in the 1970s and 1980s having many favorite players I liked to follow - mainly from Fitzroy, Geelong and Collingwood. I am currently a paid up member of the Fitzroy Football Club, who play in the Victorian Amateur Football Association. And I support Geelong in the AFL.

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