Seven of Nine (Minus Two? Plus One!)

No, this isn’t the beginning of a Star Trek fanboys’ earnest appreciation of the undisguised wonder of Jeri Ryan’s ‘exposed assets’ … as displayed by the ‘no imagination required’ one note wardrobe ( and what a symphony THAT was!), that ‘enhanced’ her performance on Deep Space Nine.

And although the AFL hierarchy has often been accused of ruthlessly displaying a ‘Borg’ like attitude to resistance (futile), and desired outcomes (you WILL be assimilated), seven of nine games in the last round being critically live, with respect to making Finals & positioning within the Top 8 is a pretty impressive outcome.

Intentional or not.

Still, impressive as that is, the curious non-primetime scheduling of some of the matches means we revert back to questioning just what the AFL were thinking with their Saturday night allocation.

Two matches with mountainously heavy favourites, one of which (Kangaroos vs Melbourne) is the first meaningless match of the weekend. The other (Geelong vs Brisbane) does have a live component – Cats must win to ensure they maintain second or third and avoid a possible trip to Sydney, site of 100+ point thrashing for them earlier this year – and only last year, provided a shockingly tight finish at the ‘same bat-time, same bat-channel’.

But compared to likelihood of results and the greater importance and implied standard, of the two matches scheduled earlier on Saturday interstate, you would have thought that was your Saturday primetime lineup locked in right there.

Even as far ahead as Round 23 schedule was formalised.

Oh well. When you’re a behemoth, logic tends to be lowish in the order of operations when you arrange your thoughts; plan ahead.

Look at it this way. Even turning a blind eye to Richmond’s unlikely straight eight stretch run, and Fremantle’s Powerball odds defying current two year streak of Docklands thrashings, at the hands of St. Kilda – which made this weekend’s taut schedule of outcomes possible – which games should be showcased on Primetime TV?

Thinking seriously now.

You certainly don’t have to think too hard.

If results play out unimaginatively according to current ladder position, then what could be more equal than likely opponents for Finals Week One – Sydney & Fremantle – starting and finishing their matches at their respective ‘Home’ venues at the same time?

After having displayed their wares in potentially crucial matches, in Primetime.

It’s not rocket-surgery eh? Maybe a little more brain-science required? No?

Having said that, Round 23 starts off with an unimpeachable choice – Hawthorn vs Collingwood, Friday Night – that has unfortunately been depleted by the Magpies’ bubonic plague of injuries throughout the year, which has conspired to go pandemic in the last few weeks.

Even so, the result is nominally live. Collingwood must win. No if’s, ands or buts for them. Lots of ’em for the Hawks though. If Richmond beat Sydney by enough after Hawthorn franks the Magpies’ dire personnel situation with an obliteration, they could conceivably get Top Spot.

Big If. Unnecessary even.

Then we come to Saturday afternoon.

Essendon need to beat Carlton to ensure seventh place and guarantee a Melbourne Final. Otherwise they could play the loser of Fremantle vs Port Adelaide’s battle to ‘Come Fourth’ (whoever slips on a banana peel comes Fifth and loses double chance).

If Richmond wins. By enough.

Big If, but not unnecessary this time.

Whew!

At least Sunday is a little more logical, but not by much. The nominally more competitive ‘live’ match between the Coasts – Gold & West – will play out on the smaller platform again. The perceived laydown misere between Adelaide and St. Kilda gets the FTA slot.

Still, in a triumph of scheduling kismet, the year of resounding scheduling experiment failure, is closed out by the ultimate who cares match, in the so-called ‘graveyard’ … Ahem! I mean twilight slot. Footscray host GWS in a match most notable for the final excavation of the ‘fossil’.

Dubbed Giansiracusa by his teammates … Have I got that the wrong way round?

The man named Daniel gives footy fans in general and Doggies in particular, good reason to buck the seemingly irreversible twilight trend – being a crowdless wasteland live at the ground – and get out to support an ornament of the game.

So, niche though the concern may be. Even the last twilight match of the year matters a little bit. Just not in the greater scheme of things.

If Collingwood or Richmond win, it will be the liveliest, most important part of the day. Daniel Giansiracusa deserves it.

Comments

  1. This is a dliemma that comes from the AFL being beholden to “our broadcast partners”. For integrity’s sake, all the last round matches should be staged at the same time. But this would never do for Channels 7 and Fox. Instead, the League has to make a big scheduling call a month out from Round 23 and then cop the predictable flak when it doesn’t get it right.

  2. David Zampatti says

    The biggest issue with Rd 23 is really Rd 22. Whoever decided to play Port on Friday night and Freo—in Brisbane of all godforsaken places—on Sunday last week is either too dumb to figure that Freo/Port in the last round was likely to be an important game, too indifferent to care, or David Koch.
    Whichever it is, I’d like to tear him a part. A new one.

  3. Gregor Lewis says

    -Stainless, DZ:

    predictable flak or no, the AFL robbed both its broadcast partners of PrimeTime matchups that were easily predictable to be more worthy than the ones they chose to schedule instead.

    Even so far out.

    This rubbish of copying the EPL is nonsensical. It won’t stop coaches whose teams are playing finals – half the competition – from organising their troops ala Ross Lyon, last year.

    It worked, no?

    As for the integrity of the matches … Just how much integrity do those who advocate this system want Geelong vs Brisbane; North Melbourne vs Melbourne; Adelaide vs St. Kilda to have?

    What’s more important for the Finals bound team with its spot guaranteed or at worst, heavily favoured to eventuate. The meaningless match, or getting its ducks in a row, the best way possible, in their own estimation, for Finals?

    Really! The AFL had five slots to fill on Saturday and one on Friday, with clear perspective to predict which teams were in the discussion for Finals. Even back then, at most there were twelve teams to consider, eight of whom were scheduled to play eachother. Take the early start out of the equation, and you have the three PrimeTime slots and the Twilight match leading to Saturday news bulletins, or the mid afternoon delayed FTA telecast, depending on which state you’re in … YAHTZEE!

    4×2=8. Did I get that right?

    Schedule logically WHILE taking the previous Round into account, and you still can’t miss – for either broadcaster.

    Why on Earth would Fox or Ch7 actually prefer the Kangas/Demons; Cats/Lions double-header in PrimeTime, with the more attractive matchups relegated to Saturday afternoon dead air that means nothing to advertisers and sees most subscribers engaged elsewhere.

    I can understand the theory of Sunday twilight for TV, as the weekend winds down – and the television ratings week nominally begins – both commercially and demographically.

    But what the AFL have done this weekend is thoughtless, even for them.

    One last thing. The Final Round of the EPL season is a time-honoured showcase, for a competition that will end there and then. No backsies. No tomorrows. It works for them.

    For us it’s mostly an obstacle to get past so the ‘real’ footy can begin in September.

    I’ve grown heartily sick of this unoriginal carping and drawing of false equivalencies. Our game is unique. Its spirit is its own. Dressing it up in the mind’s eye with approximations that just don’t fit, is like trying to shoe a donkey in ugg boots.

    A curiously pointless exercise from people thinking too hard about the wrong thing.

    There is no AFL conspiracy. Just the usual AFL hierarchy myopic tendency.

    grl

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Couldn’t agree more Gregor. What a dull nights viewing as a non-fan of the 4 teams competing. Sydney v Richmond was brilliant, would have attracted a massive TV audience if it started at 7.30. No distractions tonight either, no Wallabies or cricket on. Burnley v Man Utd not doing the job either. Big miss by the AFL.

  5. I think you’ll find that the AFL’s priority, apart from slotting games into prescribed timeslots, is to give the top sides maximum recovery time before the finals. I think this is a more reasonable priority than giving armchair fans a good Saturday night’s viewing. On that basis, I reckons the only game they got wrong was Geelong-Brisy which should have been played in the afternoon with Carlton-Essendon last night.

    When Sydney-Richmond was scheduled for the twilight spot, Richmond was still a rank outsider to even be in the running for finals. One loss at any stage would have seen this match relegated to one of the non-events. No-one could have predicted what a blockbuster it was going to be and it makes sense, given aforementioned priority, to have Sydney play no later than this timeslot. As minor premier, and likely to be playing its first final on Saturday afternoon at latest, the Swans would have taken a dim view about a Saturday night match this week.

    Btw on integrity, the EPL system is designed to avoid a situation where one side knows exactly what it has to do to finish ahead of another side, thereby avoiding any possibility of, to put it bluntly, match fixing. Had the Tigers lost yesterday the Adelaide and West Coast matches could have been subject to just that possibility, given percentages would have decided which gets through. I’m not suggesting that there is this sort of goings-on in the AFL, but the point is that concurrent fixturing minimises the risk. As you say, the Ross Lyon tactic of resting half a team could still happen, but only when he had nothing at stake.

  6. Gregor Lewis says

    Cogent points all, very evenly and intelligently presented Stainless.

    How do the ugg boots on that donkey look? I can’t quite see them.

    I am well aware of the underlying logic to the EPL final round.

    IMO it is pointless exercise, for appearances sake only.

    I repeat. It creates a great spectacle for a competition that has no tomorrow. Nothing more. Given that the required results are known well in advance, anyone looking to corrupt the integrity of the result would just have another layer to hide under, when it comes to public discourse.

    To be clearer. Playing the games at the same time innoculates the cheap & easy perception and facile discussion points only. Not the reality. I think the AFL is just as open to such corruption as anywhere else. The onus is on their integrity department to be on the alert for actual dangers, not surface arguments for arguments’ sake.

    I know I would feel more confident in dedicated vigilance, instead of stunt scheduling with no practical effect whatsoever wrt preventing actual corruption.

    As for why the AFL made the scheduling choices they made … I agree with your reasoning.

    And I disagree with their decisions. Vehemently.

    Sydney should not have been given the first afternoon game in first week of finals. I understand the desire of the AWAY team to leave immediately after, get back to Home Base ASAP. I understand the flight restrictions out of Sydney.

    But, there is a reason they are the AWAY team.

    Their reward is a second chance. For the rest, they should be required to adapt, improvise & overcome.

    And since we’re dealing with What If’s. What if Fremantle win?

    Thereafter, all is moot, no?

    Top two teams should get plum TV spots in Week 1. The rest can please themselves.

    As for the improbability of Richmond’s success, I repeat, before slots were allocated, for the matches scheduled, in order to service both telecasters, AND being inherently optimistic (unlikely or not, Richmond were still alive), which matches were best suited for those slots?

    The two known (even then) ‘who cares’ matchups should have bookended the program for Round 23. Essendon v Carlton, perfectly placed. Geelong v Brisbane – twilight.

    And Yahtzee again!

    Being optimistic, you get two live Saturday night, country spanning, mouthwatering clashes which feed into eachother in the first week of finals.

    I think there should be a symbiosis between being pragmatic and optimistic. It opens the view to a much wider vista.

    grl

  7. Mmmm…I know you like boxing, Gregor, but you don’t have to put correspondents through 15 rounds – especially when we basically agree with you. :)

  8. Surely this is less about Sydney’s preferences being deferred to Freo’s, than it is about whichever Top 4 team loses that game being given the rails run for their next game, which will be against one of the seat-warmers from the bottom half of the eight.

  9. Gregor Lewis says

    Good call Stainless.

    I get windier than a walk through Docklands in Melbourne when I get carried away, eh?

    Oh well …

    Rick N, I just reckon this is an opportunity for the AFL to rightfully practice their patented obduracy AND be transparent about it.

    Let it be known Friday night & Saturday night will be hosted by Top 2 teams, to ensure seven day break from the final Home & Away Round. Saturday afternoon, Sunday afternoon matchups should correspond to the previous night’s contest.

    Eg. This year, that means Essendon v Kangas on Sat afternoon, Port v Tigers Sunday afternoon. It does give Top 4 loser a nominal rails run (which they deserve for their H&A season exploits), but minimises the time gap as much as possible, taking into account the preferred FTA broadcast schedule.

    Depending on results, the higher ranked team should then host the Friday Prelim, to give them the advantage nominally, going into a Saturday arvo GF.

    I’ll stop now, while I’m still a huffing zephyr riding a hobby-horse to town.

    And breathe …

    grl

  10. FOR this regionally based boy down in the Smoke for family reasons, Gregor, I loved the scheduling.
    Especially when Fox HD beckons. Very happy to see the Pussy Cats tear the BrisVegas Lions apart as the 2nd half unfolded.
    Only thing as family members had warned on their way out Saturday to a revamped Footscray boozer renowned nowadays for fine food was to switch back to Bristle, Richo and Co. ‘otherwise you’ll be stuck at half-time with Sandy, Roo, Sellers and an I-change Bench of talking heads.’
    Did remember after a few taut moments with the Fox crew to switch back.
    And as I’ve discussed with Stainless before we AFL fans follow just the ONE club. I don’t give a RRA what happens to the other 17 altho’ I note the Friday nite crowd for Squawks v Pies was a miserable 40-odd thou.

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