Has the AFL drawn the wrong conclusion?

Call me weird but I love draws.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t will them to happen on a regular basis. But on the odd occasion when the siren is met with conflicted emotions and that eerie silence, to me it’s a true reflection of life.

You win, you lose, but most of the time you carry on day-to-day somewhere in between. Is your glass half full or half empty?  How do you respond, how do you keep going?  Sometimes it’s nice to just be in a tranquil state of emotional balance, neither dangerously high nor low.

Of course, when the siren blew time on the 2010 Grand Final I was anything but tranquil or balanced. Numbness was soon replaced by a total state of inner turmoil.  I can only imagine how the players felt.  I’ll never forget leaving the ground, traipsing through Yarra Park as a cataclysmic storm blew up out of nowhere.  For the tortured Saint and Magpie souls it was unbearable.  The footy Gods’ sadistic joke must have been outright hilarious for uninvested onlookers.

Nonetheless, a drawn grand final is the ultimate test of mettle. Who is the most resilient in the face of adversity?  Who can pick up the pieces and reassemble themselves for another crack at the ultimate prize whilst enduring seven more days of tortuous wait?

The uniqueness of the three drawn Grand Final in VFL/AFL history can be equated to the two tied test matches. How would it be if Brisbane (1960) and Madras (1986) were decided by a super over?  These anomalies are part of sporting folklore.  Read John Powers’ The Coach – the inside account of North’s 1977 season – and tell me that draw and replay weren’t the most compelling of narratives.  It’s the ultimate to-be-continued drama.

What’s more, the atmosphere at the 2010 Replay was infinitely better than the original, owing to a stadium full of diehard supporters as opposed to ambivalent theatre goers. The people’s Grand Final.  And for everyone else at home and afar, why would you pass up another piss-up?  As for the AFL opting out of another potential $20m windfall…  Now the odds of that must be as great as the scores being tied at this year’s decider.

Nope, sorry. We’re outta time, outta patience.  It’s a war of attrition, and you sure as hell want 18 uninjured (albeit physically shattered) players to wheel back out on the field.  The umps better pack their brown underwear too, just in case.

Given over 200 games are played across six months to arrive at the two best teams, surely one more week isn’t a stretch. To arrive at a truly deserving winner, some professional sports play a best of seven.  Here, if the scores are still tied after ten minutes of extra time we won’t even know if we’re down to golden rushed behind, or golden crap kick.  It’s really an admission the final method is an anti-climactic coin toss.

I know, it’s a bit rough to expect non Victorian teams to endure another week in the world’s most liveable city. But there are things in Melbourne known as hotels.  Lots of them in fact.

Football and life throws up unlikely challenges, and opportunities. What’s better than an AFL Grand Final?  Surely the answer is two!


About Jeff Dowsing

Washed up former Inside Sport and Sunday Age Sport freelancer. Now just giving my stuff away to good homes. Not to worry, still have my health and day job. Published & unpublished works fester on my blog Write Line Fever.


  1. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Makes sense JD. Part of the drama is having to deal with conflicted and unusual emotions. Isn’t that a good reason to be drawn to the game (pardon the pun) ? Jeez it has only happened 3 times in almost 120 years and if it weren’t for the draws in 1990 and 2010 the Pies might still be striving for their first flag since 1958. Nah keep the draws !!

  2. Haven’t got a problem with the extra time. In fact due to the fact that the sporting calendar is now so crowded, deciding the game on the day is probably required.

    But I HATE the idea of a golden point. It just doesn’t fit a game of Aussie Rules which is a relatively high scoring game.

  3. Stainless says

    Sadly this is the price we pay for our fast-paced society. It’s the combination of crowded scheduling and the desire for instant gratification. I was always a fan of GF replays and hearing about how Barassi got his deflated team up for the replay in 1977 is a big chunk of his legend as a coach. That said, as a neutral, I found the 2010 experience to be surprisingly anti-climactic (and that was before the lopsided replay was played). So I’m actually not so disappointed with the decision. But please – don’t go to “golden score”. If it’s still level after five minutes each way, go again, and again until it’s decided.

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    As a cricket man Jeff, I agree. Draws ( and ties) can be extremely exciting. There’s been great Test cricket draws. Great AFL draws. The first ANZAC Day draw arguably fast tracked the rivalry for that day. As for 2010, would we have won in extra time? St Kilda had all the momentum. The AFL seem hell bent on expanding into the month of March while not sparing the extra week in October. Doesn’t make sense.

  5. Doesn’t make sense. A loss of the sense of drama, and the Peoples GF.Which happens twice in a century. So we can expect one in about 2050! And given as a proclamationfrom on high, rather than a suggestion to the custodians of the game, all of us fans. To bad we don’t agree, its a fait accompli. And don’t get me started on the bloody golden rushed behind. It’s not wothy.

  6. Dave Brown says

    Yep, I’m with you almost all of the way, Jeff. But in the event that an “interstate” side plays in a drawn grand final why are we assuming that the replay should be at the G?

  7. A crowded calendar is the price we pay for multiple choice lives. And the Footy calendar is crowded enough as it is. I don’t want to sound like Keith Dustan, but we’re not just playing Footy over an 18 week season plus September before moving into the Cricket season. Go the extra time, and if that doesn’t resolve it, play until someone kicks a Golden Goal.

    Or we could have a shootout from the 50m arc, with say five stations involved – dead-in-front, from the boundary line, and on a 45 degree angle. No one on the mark and all six forwards from each side involved. Or six player nominated by their club before the opening bounce. Substitutes allowed for players who, in the course of the match, didn’t return to the field. No one on the mark and an open goal. The ball is allowed to bounce. There was another condition, but the email from SportzBet didn’t fully download.

  8. Malcolm Ashwood says

    The other thing against the golden point crap what if there is a huge breeze and scoring basically only occurs at one end surely at the v least it is another lot of equal extra time ? Agree with Dave if interstate side replay is at there ground.with the correct uproar each year re the lack of tickets for those clubs supporters the fact that the replay is the fans of the competing clubs game the most compelling argument of all thank,Jeff

  9. Phil – we might have lost 2010 in OT but I reckon the momentum had swung back our way in 1977 at the end. Also, Collingwood had the week’s break and were a very fit side under Tommy.

    Dips, Stainless – to be fair, the AFL only had 6 years to formulate the new rule, so we shouldn’t be so picky about the inherently flawed golden point. And you gotta give the work experience kid some meaningful work.

    Luke – the ANZAC draw was a game that epitomised the old saying ‘no one deserved to lose today’. If the scores are tied after 120 minutes or 5 days I reckon it was meant to be.

    Ken – it smacks of another ‘father knows best’ decision made on the game. Night GF will be next.

    Dave – you make a fair point about the venue for a replay.

    Wrap – I reckon Sportzbet would love to employ that option all afternoon, all year long. They’d make a killing

  10. Yes, Rulebook, agree that if we must go down this road then another 5min x 2 is more valid than golden point or goal.

  11. DBalassone says

    JD, I’ve always loved the replay too, but the interstate argument has swayed me. It’s unfair to expect WA sides to travel again the following week (particularly with all the media commitments sandwiched in there as well). It’s just too much.

  12. You just might be onto something Luke m’old son. If after 22 H&A games and whatever number of Finals, plus the extra time, the two sides can’t be separated, you’d have to agree, neither side deserves to lose. So why not call it thus and award a Joint Premiership Pennant. Joint Brownlows are awarded. They have tied series in cricket. Split decisions in boxing. Dead heats in racing. (Imaging re-running the Melbourne Cup – Ed)

    Which raises another point; the three replayed GFs have all been post-climatic duds.

    And who was it who raised the issue of the 5-goal gale? The replay would have to be 4 x 5-min quarters after a 10-min break. Oh, and the interchange count is restarted — without restriction. And before I get a knock on the door in the middle of the night from the goons at Jellymont House, the food & beverage vendors will have to make their own call on whether to pay the overtime, and the broadcaster will have to decide whether the news of our invasion of New Zealand ranks higher than staying at the G for another half hour.

    Finally, and without taking anything away from Barry Breen’s Diamond Behind in 1966, please, please, please, drop entirely the idea of the Golden Point.

  13. I can’t speak for 1948 but I reckon you’re being a tad harsh on the ’77 Replay Wrap.

    Scores were 151 – 124 which would point to a crowd pleasing contest. And whilst the margin was 27 points at the end, don’t forget Manassa’s run which brought the Pies back to within a couple goals with plenty of time left in the last quarter.

    2010 – yeah, fair enough. It was the outcome that should have happened first time round.

  14. As an American and a St Kilda supporter, I was as stunned as the players at the end of the first 2010 Grand Final (which I still have saved on my DVR for some macabre reason).
    The best thing about the replay GF was that it afforded regular supporters the chance to attend — because there were no corporate packages — and for reasonable prices.
    But after 27 weeks (this year 28), I’m all for just settling it that day. Play endless 2x5s if you want (with appropriate interchange limits). I don’t like the Golden Point or Golden Goal. Ties should be settled by a format as close to the regular game as possible, I think. (I don’t like penalty-kick tiebreakers in soccer, either.)

  15. Hello Jeff.

    When I heard the “replay” would be scrapped I immediately wondered how the conclusion to John Powers’ magnificent “The Coach – A season with Ron Barassi” would’ve been affected. For the better? Doubt it.

    I’ve loved draws since the 1976 Rd 22 tie at Princes Park kept us in the Top 5.

    As always, terrific stuff, keep ’em coming.

    MCR – KT4HoF2016

  16. No more Melbourne Cup dead heats? The VRC will surely follow the AFL lead and push the card back one race and have an extra time play off between the dead heaters down the straight six? Dead heats are like kissing an Oaks winner. Half the odds – only enough to retire to the bar instead of the Gold Coast.
    SportsLuxCrownBet will sponsor the run off. All Cup divies automatically reinvested (minus commission). They could call it the New Market Handicap.
    You know it makes sense.

  17. So much to contemplate, so difficult to grasp …

    Thanks JD for stimulating the proverbial, “I’ll give my opinion as the ground crumbles under me”.

    One of the best games of footy I have ever seen (and I wrote about for FA) was my daughter’s U18s footy GF. It went into two five minute halves after scores were tied at full time. Scores were still tied after that so the game carried on with the result determined by the first team to score. The intensity, desire and sheer fight of the contest was writ large. The season was compressed into the final minutes of the ultimate game of the season. It was that good. Breathless.

    Having said that I lean (without really being able to explain myself) to the idea expressed several times on this discussion. If the game is tied why not give the Premiership to both teams?

    This set me thinking about where ‘winning’ figures in philosophical contemplations. I don’t think that winning is innate to our character or survival or better angels. It is a construct. Therefore it can be reconstructed or deconstructed or reinforced as a measure of who we are as we see fit.

    Winning is inextricably linked to the hero concept that drives the quest narrative that is embedded into our culture. The quest narrative may have served a purpose once but in post post-modern terms it looks decidedly dated and quaint. The core problem with quest/hero/winning is that it is simplistic and exclusive. Perhaps we have to approach real life with more inclusive and sophisticated reasoning and goals.

    Is our fixation on winning a healthy thing, in the long run? I don’t know but my gut says no. By forcing the idea of winning to the centre of our construction of society are we denying better concepts to allow us to be and flourish and achieve? In science do we achieve or win? The Beatles didn’t win the Premiership but they did achieve a whole lot more that winning.

    When I read a piece like this and consider the discussion that ensures I start to doubt winning’s efficacy to our greater good. If a competition as mature and sophisticated as Australian Rules can reduce its inherent logic, meaning and value merely to satisfy the bluntest notion of ‘winning’ we can muster then I think we have a problem.

    I’m not sure I’ve explained myself but I have tied myself in knots.

    I remain confused but with the niggling feeling that goes like this: if two sides make it to the ultimate day on a sporting competition’s calendar and then slug it out for two hours and when the siren signals the end of the game they are on equals scores then the honour should go to both teams. But that rubs hard against the notion of winning … as we understand it today.


  18. David Zampatti says

    I’m a bit conflicted about the proper venue for a GF replay if one of the sides is from interstate.

    Certainly if last year’s grannie was a draw the replay should have been played at the MCG, but if the draw had happened in ’13 it should have been at Subi. Obviously.

    So what about ’04, ’05 and ’06? Surely no-one would suggest dragging both those teams and their supporters back to Melbourne a week later for the replay?

    Well that’s not true, of course. The Victorian Government, as the ultimate owner of the AFL, wouldn’t have it any other way.

  19. Thanks for the thoughtful response Rick – it’s worthy of being extracted and reposted as a standalone article. Is winning the everything and only thing? Why are flag players deemed so special, their lives validated by being in the right place at the right time? Is reaching a final destination so much more important than the journey?

    When you have tragedies like Pat Cronin footy scores and engraved cups pale into insignificance.

    The notion of dual Premiers does appeal… You’d almost think the lefties on the AFL commish might be up for it. Don’t think my mob will be receiving a retrospective ’77 flag in my lifetime though!

  20. I agree with Rick.

    For a change.

  21. I happily enjoyed the two draws/replays i watched. They are memories i retain.

    in our contemporary world it is all about instant gratification, everything being quicker, better. Fashions, cars, music are all quickly obsolete, thus require replacing. Planned obsolesence , is the way to go. You obviously can’t discard the Grand Final, but the replay is viewed as an anachronism, so let’s consign it to history. A shoot out with all the hoopla involved is deemed the way forward; but when will the next one be ? . It is almost academic

    David Z, can you expand on the Victorian Government being te ultimate owner of the AFL ? I’m intrigued.


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