The 2018 Cup Of Hubris


Greetings Tipsters


Watching the Richmond v Collingwood match, an intense contest in the second term, I got to thinking, how would the AFL look if there were twelve teams?


Twenty-plus years ago, I thought sixteen teams was pushing the envelope. Caught Brendan Bolton’s post-match press conference and thought “you won’t see the season out, ya poor bastard.” He’s on a hiding to nothing. Bugger-all older, tougher players; just a bunch of kids getting smashed from pillar to post every week.


Expansion makes recovery for the likes of Carlton & Brisbane a well nigh impossible job. Take all the #1 draft picks you want, they won’t amount to much if they don’t have tough, experienced players to show them the way, protect them for a few years, teach them. Consistent success breeds its own rewards.


Free agency doesn’t help the strugglers: say you’re a 26 year old in the prime of your career and damn good at your job, are you gonna stick with that crap team or take less money for a chance at a flag?


Hence, we get a lot of talk about “pressure” and “role players.” Around 2000 I wrote that full-time professional players would mean greater fitness, thus a greater coaching influence, as they could move the players around more.


I’m on record as an advocate of the nineteenth man. Guess I’m now on record as an advocate of a smaller comp. Not that I expect it to happen, but if you remove the lesser talented third of the players, you will get a better standard of football.


There are as yet imponderable factors, (hereon, a succinct precis of an incisive noir novella, too hot for public consumption) “Don’t take up cigarettes” said the old cop, “and twelve teams is the perfect number for a football league. Now, let’s go bury that body.”


Cheers Tipsters


P&C A Stop Privatisation Of Footy Production
Brought to you with the assistance of Motorhead at the Hordern, June 1991.


About Earl O'Neill

Freelance gardener, I've thousands of books, thousands of records, one fast motorcycle and one gorgeous smart funny sexy woman. Life's pretty darn neat.


  1. John Butler says

    Earl, I reckon your Giants will be the ultimate proof of whether you can win a flag mainly via the draft. If their Wonka gold ticket can’t do it, everyone else better start thinking about Plan B.

  2. Onya Earl. I agree with you about the effect of the dilution of talent from expansion teams and more particularly the ongoing effect of free agency/non-binding contracts in bleeding experience and big bodies to the “big clubs” challenging for flags. But I can’t see those turkeys calling Christmas early.
    Carlton and Brisbane look more like basketball teams to my eye. But will they stay together long enough to grow from boys to men? Particularly critical given the game’s evolution toward valuing strength and speed over skill and endurance.
    As a keen watcher of European football (4bloodyam this morning for Liverpool and Roma in a captivating Champions League Semi Final – 8/7 over 2 legs – why is top soccer scoring increasing and footy declining?) I prefer Australian football to be “aerial/tackling soccer” rather than “aerial/kicking gridiron/rugby”.
    Why do elephants wear ripple soled shoes when they play basketball? To give the ants an even chance.

  3. george smith says

    During the big money era, the wooden spooners were North 1972, Melbourne 1978, South 71 and 73 Fitzroy 1980 Collingwood 1976 St Kilda a lot and Footscray 1982. All of them managed to dig themselves out of the mire and play finals afterwards, thanks to better management and recruiting, but rarely troubled the big boys Carlton and Hawthorn. Since the national comp it’s become harder, but not impossible.

    Exhibit A and B must be Richmond and Bulldogs, who overcame their dismal finals records to be premiers the last two seasons. You just need an edge, like the plethora of father/sons in Geelong!

  4. Stainless says

    I’m glass half full on this, Earl.
    When Damien Hardwick took the Richmond job in 2010, he was on the same hiding to nothing as Brendan Bolton is now. After a month of that season, bookies were paying out on the Tigers for the wooden spoon (West Coast won it) and it was widely predicted they wouldn’t win a game that year (we won 6). The longer term prediction was that the Tigers would struggle to build a side at a time that the two new teams were picking the eyes out of the draft for the next few years. What Richmond has achieved since then is either a bloody miracle, or perhaps the doomsayers about dilution of talent and a lopsided competition are overstating things a tad? I think a key point you make is about the need for tough experienced bodies to help the kids. That was certainly the path Hardwick went down in his early years, bringing Houli, Grigg, Maric, the much-maligned Chaplin and others into the team. Richmond copped a lot of criticism for this tactic at the time but, hey, it prevented the kids getting flogged and a couple of those “fill-in” players now have Premiership medals. George makes a fair point too that in the national competition era, there’s been a much greater sharing around of Premiership success than in the 12 team VFL. Richmond and the Bulldogs are certainly not the greatest Premiers of all time but do you reckon the fans give a toss about that?

  5. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Wish we did have a 12 team VFL with each team having their own identity through a stadium. Wish SANFL,WAFL,TFL were also strong for their local communities.
    Re: National Comp. I thought 16 teams worked well and stragglers could rise within a couple of yours. GWS and Gold Coast have just been products of cynical code greed. Take me back to 1981.

  6. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Ditto Phil I admit I am v v much in the minority caring far more about the SANFl geez I miss the days of packed grounds and atmosphere,Unley oval on Anzac Day was a pleasant reminder of the past.
    Greed is 18 teams thanks Earl

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