When money wasn’t a factor, when brand didn’t matter, when people respected ALL sports and didn’t fear their existence, when all everyone was interested in was seeing who was the very best – football reigned supreme.
Sure there were financial problems and of course some clubs struggled to keep pace but there was a constant that kept driving everyone involved, administrators, players and fans alike – it was the competition.
Who is the best team on field & off field. It was raw, tribal, brutal, fanatical, respectful & humble all at once.
It didn’t matter if it was the Saints winning 1 premiership by 1 point over 140 years or the Dogs not having won since their solitary flag in 1954. Hawthorn winning over 25% of flags since 1971 or the dominance of the Pies era winning 4 in a row or the barnstorming Demons of the late 50’s taking all before them. Port Adelaide claiming victory in 2004 – much to my chagrin – and West Coast dominating proceedings with a state team was even mildly palatable and begrudgingly accepted. The Crows were awesome in the late 90’s and helped the National competition to take hold. This followed by the incredible 3peat of the Lions at the turn of the millennium. It was still a competition.
There is no doubt the competition as we knew it was changing dramatically for the benefit of the national game and ensuring interstate teams had a very good chance to play finals.
It was nevertheless a competition. A little manipulation. Some orchestrated match ups. A few inside runs. A bit of preferential treatment. Additional money here and there. Some help with extra draft choices. A mildly contrived “FIXture”. One or two decisions on the run. Ostensibly only mild influence exerted or imposed by the AFL. Not perfect but pretty close to pure and simple competition.
Sure we had cellar dwellers. Yes we had perennial wooden spooners. Certainly there were multiple premiership winners and dominant clubs. Once again there was one constant – it was fierce, ferocious, savage COMPETITION. It didn’t matter where you were on the ladder your fans were unconditional and rabid.
I understand the need to ensure the national competition flourishes but I don’t buy into the obscene manipulation and involvement currently undertaken by the AFL. Sydney struggled early days and the AFL didn’t want that to happen again. Have they gone too far the other way? Without a doubt in my opinion.
It cannot be called a competition when your success is dependant on the influence and involvement of decisions beneficial only to your club. Ensuring teams win premierships is a disgraceful and offensive platform to run a competition.
For the Giants to have 23 first round draft choices with at least another 3 to come this year is wildly beyond a “leg up”. Ditto the Suns. I understand individual executives have a penchant desire to accelerate success on their own watch for some head wobble but they have taken it too far this time.
I acknowledge AFL leaders have a difficult job juggling support for new franchises and interfering with the spirit of competition. One would expect some consideration and leniency to new interstate teams, especially ones in difficult markets such as NSW & Qld. However logic and integrity also suggests that there are 2 decisions that should never happen. Firstly (in order,) is not to hand-deliver a premiership to a club and secondly, not to provide enough support for them to compete over a reasonable period of time.
Premierships are sacrosanct and need to be kept for worthy recipients who have stood the test of time and been rewarded for exceptional efforts and performances – or you run the risk of diluting its value.
My formula is pretty simple. Provide every club with a reasonable “unfiltered” chance of making finals. Do that often enough and you’ll win a flag here and there. Making finals is a wonderful achievement especially for a club in their 5th year. Don’t give clubs excellent chances to win premierships, give them a reasonable chance to make finals. That’s the significant difference. Teams should “win” premierships in a brutal competition not just have it as a natural next step in their existence.
There is a high degree of “fait accompli” about recent decisions and even more so as it relates to immediate future winners.