Sep 13, 2020


We need to put the AFL ideas factory in lockdown


At the moment, the city of Melbourne is in lockdown to protect it against COVID, and while we can all debate its worthiness, or more alluringly, whose fault it is, it’s there.

But while COVID is a recent phenomenon, and hopefully will be gone in the next 12 to 18 months, another danger to our way of life has been around for longer and looks to be with us forever.

AFL House’s never-ending stream of terrible ideas.

This ‘ideas factory’ is what needs to be placed in lockdown, and a lockdown so harsh it makes the Victorian government’s look like a fun jaunt.

The AFL has always loved a bad idea, the less liked by footy fans the better.

In recent years, under CEO Gillon McLachlan and Bad Ideas Inventor in Chief Steve Hocking, we have hit peak bad ideas.

Here are just a few, some that happened, some that didn’t: 

·      17-5 fixture

·      Shot clock

·      Variable ticketing

·      Giving players the right to challenge scores

·      Wildcard round

·      Changing the club songs

·      Conferences in AFLW

·      18-meter goal square

The problem when you have this tsunami of terrible ideas pouring out of headquarters is quite a few make it through to being implemented.

There was, of course, the highest-profile, AFLX, a waste of money that now seems even worse given the games parlous financial state in 2020.

It wasn’t a bad idea in hindsight, it was a bad idea from the moment someone floated it in some awful strategy session.

Imagine if all that money had gone into grassroots footy or a future fund.

Then there was the package of rules to improve scoring, which included the six-six-six rule.

This delivered us the lowest-scoring season in about 50 years. Despite a set of rules doing the polar opposite of what they intended to do, the AFL announced they were a success, saying they improved the ‘look of the game’.

That’s like trying to lose weight, putting weight on and declaring you look better and it was always the plan.

Ask most footy fans, and they’d hardly say the game looks better now.

The problem with these bad ideas is they always seem to find a way to fruition, despite hanging around often for years beforehand, deeply unpopular with fans, they suddenly are enacted.

Take this year’s twilight Grand Final. I know 2020 is a unique season, and the Gabba is hot during the day at that time of year, and that would all be fine if the AFL hadn’t been campaigning hard for this for years.

It feels all too opportunistic. Using a crisis to ram through an unpopular change that the vast majority of footy fans have been against for years.

It could be a one-off, but why would you trust the AFL? They love money more than having a family-friendly time slot.

This is not to say I’m against change, the move to a national competition is the best idea ever. It’s just most of the ideas these days are just mindless tinkering. They are just gimmicks in the absence of strategy.

It’s why I felt rising panic when there was news the AFL was considering a 28-game season with shorter quarters in 2020.

What fresh hell is this?

Now I know the AFL will argue these are just discussions, but their track record on this stuff is not good.

The idea has two things the AFL loves, a chance to make more money and of no interest to footy fans.

The problem I have is I just don’t trust them, enough of these bad ideas come true that you have to take all of them, no matter how embryonic or ludicrous, seriously.

I wish I could hear these ideas and think ‘the AFL wouldn’t be that silly’ but that’s just not the world we live in.

We need the AFL’s ideas factory to stop, they can’t be trusted. We need them to be locked down.

My new book Cheat: The Not-so-subtle Art of Conning Your Way to Sporting Glory is now available for pre-order.  

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Sep 13, 2020

Don't forget that as Melbourne will be in lock down, we all get to watch the Grand Final from home. I wish they could put restrictions on the number of channel 7 commentators.

Rodger King

Sep 13, 2020

WOW, you have been in lock down too long mate. Not all fans think that some of these are bad ideas, just most of them. Personally I'm enjoying the footy every day of the week. It won't be too long before we get a 1 all draw and declare it a great game. The first BIG mistake they made was thinking that a National Competition was a good idea, sorry WRONG!!

The number of dedicated footy people who have turned their back on the AFL and go religiously to watch their local VFL/SANFL/WAFL teams is increasing. Even our two pre teen grand sons only watch AFL on TV and then if they like the colours the teams are wearing, [they have no idea who the teams represent] but come Saturday afternoon, it is off to the local club and there they are, kicking a footy at quarter time and listening to the bright blue commentary the coach is handing out to the blokes who are huffing and puffing after 29 minutes a quarter of good old fashion kick and grab, with the odd bump and round house right thrown in as well. Remember those days.

The AFL think tank is doing what other sporting codes couldn't, turning us fans away from the game. So now I shrug my shoulders, watch a quarter of 'something' the AFL call footy, sip on my beer and fall asleep.


Sep 13, 2020

Titus - you are on the ball, as usual.
I particularly agree with you about funding for grassroots footy. However - I find myself eagerly anticipating the night Grand Final - after always bedbug optioned - & even think it might be a good idea going forward. Sorry!
Now what about a "Do not" list to put to the AFL? I would start with "no games before 2 pm or after 6 pm" (looking at you, Sundays) & "suspension, not fines", for sling tackles.

John Nicholls

Sep 13, 2020

And another thing, Gill's hair, Worst. Idea. Ever. What kind of a name is Gill anyway?


Sep 13, 2020

100% Titus. 22 rounds is bad enough, being a carryover from the VFL 12 club competition, but 28 is utterly ludicrous! It would also mean more games on foxtel, more mindless ratbag commentary and more people switching off from footy altogether. AFL house needs more than a lockdown - a total cleanout would even better.


Sep 13, 2020

Serious typo.............should read "- after always being opposed -".
Actually, "bedbug optioned" doesn't sound too bad!

Chips Rafferty

Sep 13, 2020

You really are the Andrew Bolt of comedy Titus


Sep 13, 2020

Let’s just put the AFL ideas factory into a permanent deep freeze - preferably under an arctic glacier. While we are at let’s do a cull of all the overpaid egomaniacs at AFL house. That should get rid of 99% of the staff and their “innovation”. Marcus the graduate IT intern and Jenny in marketing should be right to keep the ship afloat in their own #GillMustGo


Sep 13, 2020

National competition my arse.

The ‘AFL’ is at its core VFL and Invited Guests, where the guests have to play by VFL rules.


Sep 13, 2020

Playing awful music between quarters at Who concert volume could be added to that list,


Sep 13, 2020


Fat Side

Sep 14, 2020

I just wish, rather than tinkering with trivialities, the AFL would stamp out the obscene amount of blatant scragging, blocking and straight-out illegal interference around the ball that happens throughout every game. It doesn't happen to the same extent at any other level of football, but somehow it is allowed at AFL level, to the total detriment of the spectacle.

In the old days, the scragger/tagger would have been "fixed up", either by the direct opponent, a-la Diesel Williams, or by a designated teammate, a-la Dermie. Those vigilante tactics have rightly been eliminated from the game, but in the absence of umpire enforcement, the talented ball-getters are again constantly hindered illegally throughout every match. We pay our money to see the likes of Cotchin, Martin, Dangerfield & Cripps play on their own merits, not to see them held, blocked and pushed out of the contest by less talented players who have no intention of going for the ball and aren't even looking at the contest. I don't know how those players keep their composure - it's a wonder there's not more incidents like Andrew Gaff's frustrated lashing out at Andrew Brayshaw a couple of years ago.

You're right Rodger King, the local VFL, NFL, EFL is the best Saturday arvo footy experience for the kids. The games are generally open, skilled contests, where everyone attending is close to the action. If the rules can be enforced at the local level, why not at the elite level?

John Nicholls Fan

Sep 14, 2020

Well done John Nicholls. At last someone has the gumption to say what we are all thinking.

Bob Dobbalinna

Sep 14, 2020

What Rexy and Rodger said (sounds like a good name for a podcast BTW).

Totally sick of the VFL-centric nature of the 'AFL', including the zillion year contract for an MCG GF and the constant referal to 'interstate teams'. My young son gets bored at AFL games but happy as a lark whenever we head to a local SANFL game.


Sep 14, 2020

Smacks of people coming up with 'improvement ideas' to justify their existence & salaries.

Totally Sick

Sep 14, 2020

Totally sick of people trying to justify Andrew Gaff breaking Andrew Brayshaw's jaw ...

the g train

Sep 14, 2020

The AFL wouldn’t be the first corporation to put making money their highest priority. But this and similar discussions need to be had. Is the AFL competition a “peoples” one, or a corporate one? Or a bit of both?

When the highest scoring team of 2020 and “premiership favourite” (until a few days ago) kicks 1 goal across 3 quarters and 4 for the game, then probably the rules of the game do need a bit of tinkering. How many years now have we heard that the game will evolve and coaches will figure ways out of defeating the adopted defensive mindset? It’s only evolved into an ultra defensive mindset. But I’m also a bit sleep deprived, so the chance to nod off half way through the third quarter is often appreciated.

I’m admittedly nostalgic, and remember the times if Plugger was restricted to 4 goals, the full back had admirably performed his job. I certainly miss the days when Plugger, Gary Ablett SNR and Dunstall could kick well over 100 goals in a season, even if blindfolded and one hand tied behind their backs.

Andrew Pelechaty

Sep 14, 2020

“Giving players the right to challenge scores“: this has been used in the NRL this year as the Captain’s Challenge, and has been pretty successful. Teams are given one successful challenge per game, it doesn’t have to be on a try either. During the North Queensland v Canberra game a few weeks back, the Raiders led 14-12 when Ben “Mr Six Again” Cummins gave an offside penalty against Canberra, ensuring an easy penalty goal shot for NQ to tie the game. The Raiders challenged it, correctly overturned the penalty, and hung on to win 14-12. Though, as Aussie Rules has more scoring opportunities than rugby league, the challenges might need to be increased to three per game. As long as players don’t channel their inner Shane Watson and waste the challenges, it could work pretty well.

Pope Paul VII

Sep 14, 2020

I'm with you G Train (and didn't you kick a ton yourself). More goals is good footy. I hate this perennial defence. It is boring.

Also as Fat Side said, the blocking is out of control. Not just on gun midfielders but forwards also. They start blocking 100m off the ball.


Sep 14, 2020

Steve Hocking played as a defender for the highest scoring team in the highest scoring era. Maybe he should just tell everyone to play like he did.


Sep 14, 2020

If I hear another commentator use the term "Goal Keeper" again I'll go spare
At least 10 times in the Hawthorn-Bulldogs game on the weekend
What happened to the term Full Back?

But I suppose the way the game is heading, the use of Goal Keeper is just softening us up....


Sep 14, 2020

Commentators, is a very poor use of the word for what we are presented.
I challenge you all, Close your eyes and listen to a game for just 3 minutes
If you have any idea where the ball is at any time good luck


Sep 14, 2020

How about all the other screwed up ‘rules’? I challenge etryone to add a few more dud rules.

How about, AFL ‘Advantage Rule? Umpire, blow the whistle stopping play, then call either:
1. “Play on” for which team you thought was disadvantaged or
2. “50m penalty” to the team who played on an tackled

How about ‘Holding The Ball‘? The rule is designed for an umpires call. Bit like a Dictator Dan Call. It’s designed to wind up the players/crowd.
When tackled with the ball, surely you must legally dispose of the ball. However, Excuses used:
Ball held to you
Ball knocked out of your possession
Ball pulled out of your grasp

An Ideas man

Sep 14, 2020

I gave my friend an elephant for his room.
He said “ thanks very much”
I said “don’t mention it”

Want to stop flooding defences, low scores, give forwards a chance to mark the ball and kick goals, draft kids where football skills are more important than athleticism?

Get rid of the interchange and players simply won’t be able to flood back all game. As players tire, scoring will open up and commentators will be heard saying things like “he’s not getting any shorter as the game goes on”

A smarter man than me can do the stats on serious injuries, a common claim to support the interchange. I’m fairly sure injuries have increased in the “modern game”. I’d be amazed if they have gone down Every week someone does an ACL. 2 last weekend. Both of those because there’s so many guys in defence.

If others remember the NRL during its unlimited interchange period? The game came unwatchable. Very low scores and all defence. They got rid of that. Now they have 8 or 10 Interchanges per game
And its now exciting attacking game.

In Darwin we are lucky enough to get both codes broadcast free to as air. Most nights I end up watching the Rugby.


Sep 14, 2020

Agreed with everything you wrote. "Gimmicks in the absence of strategy" - never have truer words been spoken. The game has never been worse to watch in my football following lifetime (a tick over 50 years) and in the old days we had grounds that were mud heaps like the Glenferrie Glue Pot. It's not all the AFL's fault - coaches have a lot to answer for. However, they are paid to win. It's the AFL's job to successfully develop the game and entertain us, and they have failed big time.


Sep 14, 2020

Absolutely agree An Ideas man!

Have 6-8 reserves instead of interchange. No interchange allowed unless you have more than 6-8 injuries within a game.

Skills and one-on-one contests will come back into vogue as coaches won't be able to control the flow of the game through zones.

I'm in Canberra, so like you watch both codes. No doubt the NRL has been a better product this year, though Eagles v Cats is probably my pick as footy game of the year


Sep 14, 2020

Wow, some great comments people! Loving this edition!

Agree, I'm sick of people making excuses about Gaff breaking Brayshaw's jaw! An experienced player bashing a new-kid is pretty poor form in anyone's book! Surely?

With global warming, I wouldn't trust putting the 'Ideas Factory' under a glacier.

Yeah, what is it with the AFL and hair? Is Gill just getting on the bandwagon of player's stupid hair cuts or is this an innovation he's paid consultants to come up with?

Titus, you were very generous in keeping your list so short. There are so many other innovations we hate, one never has prior opportunity to throw around the frustrations to score a review of the increasing dismantling of our great game. It's so hard to think of more ideas with all the pretend-crowd noise in one's ears. The good news is that I was once told 6-6-6 was the devil's number. Thank goodness we have Fox Footy locking away games or we would have to watch every game free to air and listen to washed-up has-beens commentating on irrelevant aspects or saying, "Ohh. Oh dear" over and over again for no apparent reason. .

Great game being wrecked

Sep 14, 2020

Yep, the "brains trust" at the AFL sure know how to wreck a great game.

6-6-6, yeah that helped, scoring went down. Rule did not work, rule needs to be removed.

Reduce the number of free kicks paid: yeah great idea. This means that the umpires are obliged to ignore many free kicks which are there. So, we get, rather predictably, very inconsistent umpiring. They pay holding the man maybe 10% of the time a player is held when not in possession. They hardly ever pay a free when one player shepherds the ball or shepherds from over 5m away. ENforce the rules as written, or be honest and change the rules.

But the worst is the short quarters. When they reduced quarters from 25 to 20 minutes plus time on, they also made it such that time on was added more often. The quarters ended up basically the same length. Short quarters this year may have been necessary given the unique situation but they have made the game far more congested and there is never that period at the end of quarters when the better team slams on a couple of goals. I have no trust, absolutely none, in the AFL not trying to bring this in permanently. There has to be a fan revolt if they don't go back to normal length quarters. In fact, why not go back to normal length quarters in the finals, the games are no longer closer together, no need for short quarters - remove them now.

Saint Peter

Sep 14, 2020

Everyone understands the AFL Commission & Execs pride themselves on making stupid decisions just so the media will swallow it all up & keep the game in the news. Plus money is not only King, it is Queen & Jack as well.
However I would like to see a 17 game season with each team playing each other only once a season except for finals. But again money will stop this great idea from seeing the light of day. Wonder if we should protest about that?

Lawn Patrol

Sep 14, 2020

Exactly Fat Side. How about we make a rule that says that the tag/scragger is allowed 5 unnecessary scrags upon the taggee and then the taggee, or nominated team mate of his choice, is allowed one totally free retaliation with no consequence of on field free kick, carry over points or Brownlow consideration?

You know it makes sense. And it would open up the game to new viewers.

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