AFL happy with expansion clubs' progress - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

AFL happy with expansion clubs' progress

By Sam Lienert 05/05/2010 06:31:34 PM Comments (0)

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou says devising a format for an 18-team competition remains a major challenge, but he could not be happier with the progress of the league's expansion clubs.

Demetriou admitted to experiencing a "brain meltdown" looking at options for a 17-team competition when the Gold Coast debuts next season, when each club will have two byes and the season will be extended by a week.

But he said the 2012 format, when Western Sydney enters the competition, was more significant, given developing the right formula for the current 16 teams had been a pillar of the league's success.

The AFL was grappling with whether to have a final eight or nine, whether to have 22, 23 or 24 rounds, whether to expand the finals series, and whether to introduce a conference system.

"This is a very critical question because the 16-team competition with 22 rounds has been an amazing success," the AFL boss said at a business lunch in Melbourne on Wednesday.

"We want to make sure we get the 18-team bit right because if the season's too long it's going to disenfranchise a lot of people.

"You'd hate to be a supporter of a club - Richmond - and you've lost the first 12 games and you've still got another 12 to go.

"Getting that part right is going to be a real challenge."

Despite Gold Coast's struggles to snare a big-name player and Western Sydney being yet to finalise a playing base, Demetriou said the league remained confident of creating two strong clubs.

"Probably the most important thing about the expansion is we're investing $220 million into these clubs over the next six years," he said.

"And what's also important is we've learnt lessons from the past when we've introduced teams into the competition.

"We're much better resourced, much better funded, much more planning ... it won't be from want of trying or lack of strategy or lack of resources if this venture doesn't work."

He said the $144 million redevelopment of Gold Coast's home venue at Carrara was a huge benefit and the second Queensland club had made great inroads towards attracting community and corporate support.

Demetriou acknowledged western Sydney was a tougher challenge, given the lack of an AFL culture, but said he had confidence in the experienced appointees to key positions.

He said new chairman, Tony Shepherd, who has overseen the building of major infrastructure projects such as Sydney Harbour Tunnel, had made a successful career from pulling together major projects.

"(He's) a fellow who spent his whole life taking 10-year projects and building them and sees this as a wonderfully exciting opportunity to do the same," Demetriou said.

"It is a 10-year project and they will have a ground to play on ... they'll be able to draw on the finest young talent."

Asked about Gold Coast's struggles to convince star players such as Geelong's Gary Ablett or Joel Selwood, Hawthorn's Lance Franklin or St Kilda's Nick Riewoldt to move, Demetriou said: "Thankfully that's one decision I'm not involved in and I don't have to worry about."

He downplayed concerns that winless Richmond could be set for an extended stint on the bottom, given the new clubs' draft concessions means they can not benefit from the top picks that Melbourne - the wooden spooners of the past two years - received.

He said the Tigers needed to be aggressive in trading and creative with their draft picks, citing Geelong's rookie drafting of mature-aged key forward James Podsiadly.

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