I’m looking at you, AFL

Has the AFL become less predictable than the NRL? After seeing this week’s results sheets I think  it may be getting closer.

I always looked at the AFL as a bit of a banker when it came to tipping and betting. The NRL, in past years, has been an absolute nightmare to tip. It hasn’t really changed this year either, with the “experts” tipping the “Tigers” as “favourites” for the premiership. I don’t know which fantasy world these “experts” were living in. I know that it’s always difficult to tip the NRL, I understand, but I also know that the answer to the question “When will the Tigers finally bring it all together?” is “never!”

For all those that think I’m going all Matty Johns on you, I also know that the “never” answer also applies to Souths and Parramatta as well. To fans of these teams: don’t beat me up, my opinion only.

But you know how it goes, AFL followers. Things tend to work in dynasties, don’t they? There was a Brisbane Lions dynasty, then a Port Adelaide dynasty of sorts, then a Swans dynasty and then a Geelong and Collingwood dynasty. As a fan of sport who doesn’t follow AFL all that closely, I know that I can usually answer the question of who’s going to win this year’s premiership by watching one episode of that year’s Footy Show and picking up hints as to who the two best teams were. Flame on AFL fans. Flame on.

This year, to me, seems different. Collingwood aren’t the dominant proposition they were for the last two years. Geelong got beaten by North Melbourne, who have promised so much but delivered so little over the past number of years. I am beginning to think we might have some new Grand Final contestants this year.

The NRL often advocates that the salary cap is the best thing ever to happen to rugby league. The argument runs that it evens the playing field and ensures a tight competition every year. Looking at the closeness of NRL fixtures, I would generally agree. The competition has been exciting and the standard of play excellent for the past ten years. It’s obvious, though, that the players are playing for much less than they’re worth, and for that reason I think that the cap is immoral. 

The AFL’s  salary cap hasn’t seemed to have had the same effect, at least to my untrained eye (thanks Jacko). Why has the AFL has not enjoyed the same closeness between all teams? It always seems like there are two or so teams standing high above the others in the quality their play. If, through their salary cap,  draft and whatever other systems, they have managed to provide us fans with a competition as even as the NRL, then it is a triumph both for spectators and capitalists alike.

Then again, we just watched Manly, the reigning premiers in the NRL, get beaten convincingly by the cellar dwelling Titans. In that respect I think the NRL is still the benchmark. I would not put my money on the bottom two teams in the AFL to beat any of the other teams, let alone Geelong. But if you ask me when the reals Eels or Titans are going to show up and win, I think it’s just as likely to be against the Storm or the Broncos as anyone else.

I think, if pushed,  the reason I would give for my general lack of observance of AFL in the past has been the predictability of results. If this new trend keeps up, and the top teams aren’t as untouchable as they have seemed in the past couple of seasons,  I may be forced to change my ways. Then again, if the Blues and Eagles begin a dynasty and I’m forced to watch mid-table clashes to see a close game, I might not bother.

I started by mentioning a banker for the betting-folk, and I’d hate to disappoint the many (read: any) that read along. So here it is: bet against the Suns and GWS. I read a news story last week that due to lack of bets on GWS to beat West Coast, the Eagles were paying a flat dollar. Yep. No more bets please.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by sphynxxxx on April 16, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    For someone that doesn’t closely follow the AFL, your commentary is fairly astute. I do believe in an upcoming Blues dynasty. Unfortunately.

    In my opinion, the reason behind your various observations are:
    1) The structure of the national draft means that a team ‘bottoming out’ for 4 or 5 years will have a dynasty for 4 or 5 years in 4 or 5 years time as those sides get all the fantastic young players who mature over those coming years under the guidance of the better older players.

    2) The trading structures have some restriction on when and where players can be transferred to, allowing the team structure more ‘sticky’ if the owners etc want it to be.

    3) The ‘interference’ in the draft over the last 3 years… and for the next 3 or 4 years… to build the Suns and GWS sides, has meant all of the good younger players are being funneled into those sides… as well as a few of the better older players as well.
    –> This has left some teams with a lack of speed around the park and also a lack of the cream of the crop… lowering the standard of the replacements for those other sides.
    –> The problem with this is that the younger players going to the Suns/GWS are missing out on the older heads and role models to bring them on, instill confidence in them and allow them to flourish.

    On a side note, with teams like the Swans (who have salary cap concessions)… they can’t really afford to bottom out, as it would hurt the side’s finances etc for at least 10 years, such is the fickle nature of many of their ‘fans’.


    • Posted by Alex on April 16, 2012 at 10:14 pm

      The standard of play in the NRL has been excellent for the past 10 years? Not so sure about that one mate … there are some absolutely shocking games of footy every week. I love my league, but the week-to-week quality isn’t good enough in my opinion. The draft brings a higher standard to 4 or 5 teams with others still capable of an upset. In my opinion it’s the best medium between the English Premiere League, where only a couple of teams can win, and the NRL, where anyone can win. Who said that a competition where anyone can beat anyone at any time is the “best”?


      • Posted by Tim P on April 26, 2012 at 8:01 pm

        Definitely agree that you can’t define the best competition as the one where anyone can beat anyone. Well said. The topsy-turvy week-to-week nature of the NRL is as frustrating as it is entertaining at times. Although I do think that in some respects the NRL has to be a bit that way inclined to keep up the interest in the game.

        AFL has no problem maintaining excellent crowds particularly in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, despite some pretty ordinary patches of form for their teams. The club culture in those areas is just way better than in Sydney (and Sydney-siders will say that’s because there’s fuck-all else to do down there, but that’s another story).

        The fact is that I would seriously worry for a club like Cronulla, who have been losing money fairly rapidly in the last few years, if not for the fact that fans can turn up and expect to have at least a chance of winning. I think there was one year recently where the Sharkies won very few games, but pretty much all their losses were within a converted try (might be slightly off there). Otherwise I reckon the crowds would dwindle even more than they already do.

        Long story short, I think that the manufactured tightness of the NRL ladder is more necessary than it would be in the AFL, simply due to the fickle nature of a large number of Sydney footy fans. It’s also the reason why the AFL simply can’t afford to have the Suns and Giants battling to get within 50 points each week for very long, because fans will not keep showing up.

  2. Posted by Ben W on April 18, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Frothing on the fact you’re blogging bro. Straight up Beast Antics! I’ve got three ideas I might just throw out there.
    1) Maybe the game of AFL, is simply a game where structure and strategy and player quality etc. simply have more importance because of the rules of the game. In NRL, a shit load of it is about turning up, and attitude; if you go harder then you can win because it is a close confines physical game. In AFL I suspect that turning up with the right attitude isn’t enough to topple a high quality player roster with good structure. The field is too bloody big, no offsides and so much space, you need to really know how to play/where to be etc.
    2) The games are higher scoring. Leaves less to chance from a mathematical perspective. In NRL/Soccer one lucky try or goal can change the game against a better side. It’s statistically easier to churn out 1 lucky goal then 15.
    3) In NRL you have to give the shit side the ball every 5 tackles so they get a chance. In AFL you don’t have to give it to them till you score.


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