The AFL's choice to upstage Australia's valiant World Cup efforts has been blasted as "lame" by veteran footy journalist Caroline Wilson.
As the Socceroos kicked off their date with destiny in the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium at 6:00 am (AEDT) on Sunday, schedule makers at AFL House sought to seize the moment, simultaneously releasing the opening round of their 2023 fixture.
Though Graham Arnold's men eventually fell to South American giants Argentina, led masterfully by the genius of Lionel Messi, scenes witnessed around the continent - including another fleet's worth of flares at Federation Square - proved that it was indeed the world game's moment.
Fed Square loved that Craig Goodwin strikepic.twitter.com/iRorBSljx1
— COPA90 (@Copa90) December 3, 2022
Given a choice to release the opening week of the schedule came at the moment that the country gathered to hail heroes from another code, it is impossible to see this effort as anything other than a deliberate attack.
Speaking on ABC's 'Offsiders', Wilson contended that the league's attempts to subvert the unifying moment were lamentable.
"I thought the response this morning to release the Round 1 fixture of the AFL 2023 season, and to be run on the front page of the News Limited paper in Melbourne, was just lame of the AFL," Wilson stated in the hours after Australia's 2-1 loss on Sunday.
"I would have just given them (the Socceroos) a bit of clean air today. I thought that was disappointing by the AFL."
The AFL's misfire also drew ire from social media users, many of whom were left perplexed and outraged.
— Shane (@_Willo_) December 3, 2022
The AFL releasing the Round 1 2023 fixture on a Sunday morning during the 1st half of the Socceroos World Cup match reeks of a inferiority complex. Why would the biggest football body in the country care? Why don't football officials realise all codes can coexist & prosper?
— Matt (@MattATTurvey) December 3, 2022
How can the AFL ask its players not to be dicks when the grown ups in charge will drop a fixture at 6.15am on Socceroos biggest day? Not ‘hardball’. Not ‘owning the news cycle’. Just a complete lack of class and respect for sport.
— Tony Wilson - Good One, Wilson Substack (@byTonyWilson) December 3, 2022
— PennyK ❎ (verifeid) (@PKpies) December 3, 2022
In spite of their timing, the league's choice to pit comparable teams together to start the 2023 season has provided fans with multiple must-watch clashes.
24 hours later, Pies and Cats fans will converge on Yarra Park to resume hostilities for the first time since their thrilling qualifying final contest in September.
The remainder of the 2023 AFL fixture is expected to be released in the coming days.