What to do about Round 23?

Something needs to be done about “dead-rubber” AFL games in the final round of the season. I saw the most uncompetitive performance from a side in recent memory with Fremantle’s performance against St Kilda on Saturday. With all due respect to the Saints, we were watching a game where only one team cared about winning and it certainly was not the men in purple. Understandably it is all about next week and beyond for Ross Lyon and his side. Interestingly, if Ryan Lester converted the goal for Brisbane in the dying seconds against Geelong, the loss would have cost Fremantle a home final.

The Dockers made 10 changes at the selection table with most of those players being listed as rested. Hayden Ballantyne, Nat Fyfe, Zac Clarke, Lee Spurr, Zac Dawson, David Mundy and Michael Johnson were confirmed outs on the Thursday while Chris Mayne and Garrick Ibbotson were late withdrawals from the selected team on the day of the match.

You cannot blame Lyon’s strategy of resting tired players on the eve of the finals, especially as coach of an interstate side where travel is a major factor. But the game on the weekend made a mockery of the competition, even if it did give three St Kilda stalwarts the send-off they deserved.

The work rate and defensive structures of Fremantle was well below its usual standard as the Saints did as they pleased for four quarters. Ryan Crowley, probably the best tagger in the competition, did not tag any St Kilda player. This is despite Leigh Montagna and emerging superstar Jack Steven gathering 47 disposals each and absolutely dominating the match.

One possible solution to limit the amount of these types of matches could be to have “Rivalry Round” in the final round of the season. This way clubs that are out of finals contention still participate in matches where there is a lot of pride on the line. We could also have the Q-Clash, Showdown, Derby and the Battle of the Bridge on the same weekend so non-Victorian sides competing in the finals get a week’s rest from travel.

Twitter – @JClark182

About Jackson Clark

Born and bred in Darwin, Northern Territory, I am a young, aspiring football writer that lives and breathes the game of Australian Football. I'm also a keen player and coach.


  1. Cat from the Country says

    Like the concept of rivalry round as last round. Local derbies are good as you say, for pride.
    The Cats could play Doggies at Geelong or somewhere in the west and the Melbourne mob can have the G and Docklands. Bring it on!

  2. Shane Kennedy says

    Like it or lump it, the Dockers earned the right to rest as many players as they wanted.

    I like the way the Saints approached this week. Make the final round a real send off for those retiring players. Who cares if they are shot and can’t even run. Make it a chance for the fans to come and say thanks, and the players to have one last win to help celebrate over the next few days.

  3. Guru Gus - Singapore says

    Rivalry Rounds makes a lot of sense, and keep all 9 games alive.

    Saturday was a wonderful day for the StKilda FC, despite Freo’s lack of effort. Closing the season on 2 good wins makes for a whole lot better conclusion than where they were at with 3-17. The last quarter was very emotional with Kosi’s efforts to put one through, plus Blakey’s unrestrained joy at kicking one himself. The Club did a great job of making the day a celebration, and should be commended.

  4. I think they tried that one year about 10 years back but one of the Adelaide clubs got all ‘it’s not fair waaah’ about having a game as important as the Showdown immediately before the finals disrupting their finals planning. Like the ‘aura’ around that particular home and home game is somehow the fault/problem of the rest of the AFL…..

    The AFL will investigate the possibility of Making A Rule to cover this situation , because threatening to Make A Rule is what the AFL always does when a club has a lend of it the way Freo did, but I doubt they’ll come up with anything that doesn’t just swap one problem for another.

  5. I went to the game with my cousin, a dockers fan and found it the perfect antidote to the whole pins and needles saga. The unbridled joy of the Saints fans for the retirees was bigger than the game and made me realise I’d spent most of the afternoon smiling and hoping Kosi would kick a goal, or knock one of his own players out accidentally. My cousin didn’t smile, but it’s humbling and instructive for any WA footy fan to experience the other side of a one sided crowd.

  6. Sorry, bad idea. Lyon would have rested entire team had there been a derby against West Coast, with higher risk of injury. Team out of finals contention would hit harder against rival team in the finals.
    Just wont work.
    Best thing that could happen (but never will) is to play the last round all at the same time. Imagine the drama from this weekend, Crows thinking they are a chance, North thinking they are in, Lions a home final, then Carlton ripping the hearts out of all supporters. Every fan watching other games scores on radio and twitter. Would have been the greatest 3 hours of emotion for so many more fans.

  7. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Todd is correct the best way is to play all games at the same time like they do in
    English Premier League but with TV deal it can’t happen also with the rest period there
    4 it can’t be even so there 4 it will never happen mind you have the AFL ever worried about fairness ?

  8. Jackson Clark says

    Disagree Todd, I don’t think there is necessarily a higher risk of injury due to harder hits in derby games. After all, I was always told “the harder you attack the football, the less likely you are to get injured”. Besides, we all know that there is zero chance of games being played at the same time.

  9. Tavis Perry says

    I reckon its a fantastic idea Jacko! Imagine the size of the crowd if Carlton had to beat Collindwood in the last round the make finals instead of Port..! The maggie’s would have tried harder to knock them off, too.. An even better idea when it means none of the interstate teams have to travel in the last round, thereby not needing to rest as many, plus every side in the comp has the same advantage of no travel in the week leading into finals. Great work mate!

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