Former Sydney and Melbourne coach Paul Roos has devised six simple, somewhat self-explanatory steps to improve AFL.
I know what you’re thinking. “Not more changes!”
But Roos’ steps are needed and are not all that complicated, with none of them changing the way the game is played from a tactical standpoint on the field.
Firstly, an equalisation of fixturing must be achieved.
“The players obviously want to spend less time at clubs, and I actually spoke to a high-profile player last year when I was coaching Melbourne and I said, ‘Would you take less money if there was only 17 rounds?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I would’.
“So, 17 rounds. Play each other once: home one year and away the other. Two byes stretch it to 19 weeks, and instead of the pre-finals week off I would have a ‘wildcard’ play-off round where it’s seven-versus-ten and eight-versus-nine. So the bottom eight are finished, teams one to six get the week off, and then, bang, you go into the finals series of eight as we know it.”
The wildcard idea has been proposed and discussed by a number of media personalities lately and while the fixturing debate is far from being settled, Roos’ idea appears to be a mix of several floated about recently.
Secondly, Roos wants the draft age raised. Something that he feels particularly strong about.
“Probably the main one is when kids are doing Year 12 we shouldn’t be asking them to do under 18 championships, TAC Cup, club football, school football, and their final year of school all at the same time. Then suddenly you might be on the plane to Perth when you’ve lived in Ballarat and your Mum and Dad have looked after you and your whole life’s been relocated. I think the minimum draft age needs to be at least a year older,” he wrote.
Roos also believes that the TAC Cup should become an under 20 competition as opposed to the under 18 competition that it is today, in order to allow kids coming into the system to grow as people as well as footballers before entering the professional landscape.
“You could set up almost a semi-professional feeder competition with a full-time coach, full-time player welfare, full-time manager. The kid has to be either working or studying to be eligible to play, and then the coach works around his timetable for individual sessions. You’re much better prepared coming into AFL football.”
Thirdly, every side should have a seconds outfit, going back to the old system and ultimately one that was better.
All 18 clubs have direct affiliates now which makes changing this process that much easier.
“Say you’re a struggling team like Melbourne was a few years ago. The seniors might get beaten by 10 goals, but you’re seeing Petracca and Brayshaw and Hogan and Viney running around in the seconds. It’s like the old days. You leave the MCG going, ‘They’re young, it’s exciting, there’s hope’.”
Roos used Sydney’s Dane Rampe as the perfect example of how the system would work.
“I just think the system is completely flawed and it needs to be fixed. Fast. Because we’re losing a lot of kids. Think how many Dane Rampes there are. He’s an all-Australian defender, and if he hadn’t played for the Sydney Swans seconds when I was in the academy he wouldn’t be playing AFL football today. It’s extraordinary.
“So how many Dane Rampes didn’t get drafted, went out and played with their mates, and never got a chance to play AFL? As opposed to the under 19 system, where they crept onto the list. Diesel Williams is the greatest example of the old system and Dipper, Michael Tuck, so many of those guys just snuck on a list, snuck through the under 19s, got into the seconds and became stars. Not just average players, but stars of the game. We’re missing out on hundreds and hundreds of AFL players now.”
The AFL employing full-time umpires was next on Roos’ list.
“I know people say, ‘What would they do?’. Well, that was the same argument we had about players and coaches. They’d be going out to do clinics, helping other umpires, getting around to clubs, as well as sitting down and reviewing their game tapes … it would look almost exactly the same as what an AFL player’s week does. What’s illogical to me is you’re asking players and coaches to prepare every week for their opposition and the umpires aren’t doing the same level of preparation. So I’d love to see that happen.”
Roos also noted that relationships between players/coaches and umpires are non-existent, saying that during his playing days, there was much more post-match communication with officials regarding decisions in the game, humanising the process.
Roos also suggested an umpire academy where they could be potentially studying a university degree at the same time.
A concussion sub was next on the agenda for Roos who said players simply had to be protected.
“You can’t bring in this new protocol on concussion, which potentially takes away a player, and not think through how that impacts the game.”
But what about if a player tears his hamstring in the first quarter?
Injuries have and always will be a part of the game and while concussions are understandably more sensitive, as they should be, it’s just another type of injury (accidental 99% of the time). The sub rule hasn’t worked before, what makes this different?
Finally, Roos wants a draft lottery introduced. Put tanking to bed, once and for all, he says.
“How would it operate? Again, that’s where the debate comes in, but you would at least go to the bottom four teams and you’d have a certain amount of balls, similar to the NBA, really, but you’ve have to do some research on what the number is. Is it four, is it five, is there a cut off for number of games won, if you only win three games do you start with 100 balls, for example?”
The NBA recently reformed their tanking process giving the three teams with the worst records an equal amount of chance to draw the number one pick, meaning if you deliberately finished last, you wouldn’t have any extra advantage.
Tanking is real and everyone knows it. There are a multitude of options on how to propose a lottery system but it does appear the most logical way to eliminate “list management”.