Blockbusters beat fairness in AFL draw - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Blockbusters beat fairness in AFL draw

30/10/2009 08:07:15 PM Comments (0)

The AFL admits its emphasis on attracting viewers will come at the expense of fixturing fairness in 2010.

Announcing next season's schedule, AFL chief operating officer Gillon McLachlan said the league had deliberately concentrated on creating extra blockbuster games more so than an even fixture.

"By being incredibly strict (in the past) around the rules around trying to create football fairness, I believe we've missed some opportunities to actually create the big games," McLachlan said.

"It's a fair point to say we've looked this year, while not walking away from having football fairness, we've worked very hard at having big games and these big fixtures that our fans and our supporters love."

He said such big occasion games were particularly important in capturing public interest in NSW and Queensland, as the AFL attempts to build its supporter base.

Among the planned blockbusters, Richmond and Carlton will again begin the season on a Thursday night, this year's opener falling on March 25.

There will be two other Thursday night games for the season, both featuring Carlton and Brisbane, to harness the focus on Coleman medallist Brendan Fevola's move from the Blues to the Lions.

Similarly, Sydney and the Western Bulldogs meet twice, in Canberra and at the SCG, after former Swans premiership co-captain Barry Hall's off-season move to the Dogs.

The Swans will open their season against 2009 losing grand finalist St Kilda at ANZ Stadium on a Saturday night.

They will play two other matches at that venue, against reigning premiers Geelong and the big-drawing Collingwood.

There will be three matches on Anzac Day, which next year falls on a Sunday, the traditional Essendon-Collingwood clash at the MCG, then Hawthorn-North Melbourne in Launceston, before Fremantle host Richmond at Subiaco that night.

Popular Melbourne clubs Essendon, Collingwood and Carlton each play each other twice, while those three teams each have a pair of matches against reigning premiers Geelong.

The Cats have two Monday showcase games, against Hawthorn in round two and Carlton in round five, the day after Anzac Day.

But 2009 grand finalists Geelong and St Kilda will not play until round 13 because the AFL ditched its recent policy of a round-one grand final rematch.

McLachlan said this year's Hawthorn-Geelong grand final rematch did not receive the attention the league hoped, so it would delay next year's equivalent to build anticipation.

"We are deliberately trying to create an event in the middle of the year ... everyone knows the two epic games they played in 2009," he said.

"There will be a build-up and a sense of anticipation and hype around this game that we don't think we'd get early in the year, that's the reason and the rationale."

Cats football manager Neil Balme questioned that thinking.

"I would have thought that if it was such a thing you look forward to, you might do it more often," Balme told SEN radio.

But Geelong chief executive Brian Cook said while the supporters would find it strange, from the club's perspective it was not an issue.

He said from a financial viewpoint, the Cats would benefit from numerous other blockbuster games, while in football terms, it was preferable to play their closest rivals later in the season rather than in round one.

As previously forecast, the AFL will leave open the timing of matches for the final round of the home and away season, to make it easier to schedule the first weekend of the finals.

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