Time for a new AFL Draw

By Robert Dalton

With the expansion of the AFL to embrace even more interstate teams, it is high time to re-think the draw and extend the football season, perhaps by eliminating the NAB Cup for starters.

In the days of the old VFL it was a fair draw as all teams played each other twice – 11 home games and 11 away games. Now there are “easy” and “hard” draws, depending on which teams you end up playing twice each season (for example, Geelong get two games against the Suns next year – maybe the Cats can chalk up 8 points already). Clearly, it is no longer a fair competition, and so the perception that some teams (e.g. Magpies) get favoured treatment becomes inevitable.

My suggestion would be that clubs play each other once, and then divide into two divisions. For example, next year with 17 teams, all clubs would play an elimination round of 16 games, then the top 9 teams would play another 8 games against each other, to see who makes the top 4 for the finals. The bottom 8 teams play another 7 games against each other, but cannot make the finals. This would have the benefit of making the home and away season more meaningful, because each team would be vying to make the cut after round 16. Most importantly, the top teams would all play each other twice before the finals.

The bottom teams would be eliminated from the finals six weeks earlier than now, but would play out the season against their equals, rather than losing heavily to superior teams. It would be a chance to blood new players, try new game plans, etc.

Admittedly, there could be problems, like teams at the cut-off point finishing on equal points, but then, as now, percentages would determine which team makes the second round, and which drops out.

With 17 (and soon 18) teams in the AFL, we cannot continue the farce of the current unfair draw of 22 games. Nor can teams play each other twice per season, unless we want the Grand Final in December! Under the elimination model, we get a building crescendo of both elimination and excitement. Imagine the last 8 games in the Super Season, as the cream of the AFL battle it out to see which will make the final 4. It would be like two finals series in one year. There would be blockbuster games every week for 3 months. The season would only be extended by a couple of weeks and yet so much more would be delivered.


  1. Don’t know about the Cats winning against the Suns. If I remember correctly they lost their first game against Freo in the dark old days.

  2. There is an obvious solution to the AFL’s “draw” problems and it has been there since the competition reached 16 teams in 1997. We borrow all sorts of poor, culturally inappropriate ideas from US sport like cheerleaders or Monday Night football but we don’t learn from the Yanks on the one sporting question that they have useful experience of – how to organise a professional competition across a large landmass.

    The Americans divide their leagues into “conferences” based on geography and each conference plays teams in its own group the same number of times and teams in the other conference(s) the same number of times.

    In Australia you would divide the AFL into a Eastern and Western Divisions (Australian term preferred to Conference)with Melbourne teams in both divisions. Thus:-

    Eastern Division – Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney, West Sydney, St Kilda, Hawthorn, Richmond, Collingwood and Carlton.

    Western Division – West Coast, Fremantle, Adelaide, Port Adelaide,
    Geelong, Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne, Essendon and Melbourne.

    Each team plays teams in its own Division twice and in the other Division once. So each team plays exactly the same teams as all others in its Division. The first three weeks of the finals are conducted on the lines of the pre-1972 Page-McIntyre system i.e

    Week 1. 1st Semi final East 3v4, 2nd Semi Final East 1v2. 1st Semi West 3v4, 2nd Semi 1.vr.
    Week 2. preliminary Finals for both Division.
    Week 3. East Grand Final, West Grand Final.

    Week 4. AFL Grand Final East GF winner vs West GF winner.

    This would be a totally fair competition. Most of the marquee
    games would happen twice per season (Carlton Collingwood, Adelaide Port, etc.) The only marquee games that would be cut to once per season are Essendon Collingwood, Essendon Carlton and Melbourne Collingwood. The downside is that Collingwood and Carlton would never meet in an AFL Grand Final (is that a downside?) Neither would the two teams from Perth and Adelaide.

    But it would be a completely fair draw.

  3. Dave #2 – I thought in a totally fair competition there would be no such thing as a marquee game. There should be no consideration of who the Pies play or don’t play.

  4. #3. The phrase Marquee Game does not necessarily refer to Collingwood games. They refer to games that get larger than normal crowds.

    Under the current rules where the AFL assigns the gate takings to the home side, all the smaller clubs request home games against Collingwood because we have more, and more loyal, fans and get huge crowds even against poorly performing clubs and even when we were performing poorly ourselves.

    Ironically, the same Victorian clubs that want home games against the Pies are also the ones who whinge that Collingwood gets too many games in Melbourne.

    There are two ways to solve this problem. Either the draw that I suggested which will have every club having the same number of home games or a return to the old VFL system where the takings were pooled and divided equally between all tweleve clubs. Collingwood, Carlton, Essendon and Melbourne (when they were strong) used to hate this system because it meant that they were subsidising the poorer clubs with low supporter bases.

  5. Regardless of which team’s fans are generating the income, the AFL now has enough financial clout to be able to support two more sides, one from Tasmania and a Darwin-based one.

    Forget the conference-style setup. Two divisions of 10 (as in the old VFA). Promotion/Relegation. Top 4 or 5. Each team plays each other twice. 18 games plus finals. 10 games a week (from both divisions) for the TV stations to fight over.


  6. Of course I know it’ll never happen.

  7. Dave the conference system could just be put in for the draw. No need to do superbowl style finals as well.

    Mind you the easier solution is to rank teams in odds and evens, and then play every 2nd game.

    But of course it’s all about the $

  8. Chris Murray says

    Its all about the money ,down to every level of AFL involvement. The AFL is only interested in money.
    TAC cups playes being slugged over 1000 dollars just to “take part”

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