As we reach the halfway point of the season this weekend, I feel it’s time to talk about 2022 already. Not so much what sides will be competitive and who is primed for a big season, but rather five things that can be implemented and introduced that I think will strengthen the competition for next year and beyond.
Introduce the deliberate rushed behind rule
I still find it interesting that if we as a league are to follow the rules brought in by the AFL, such as the stand rule, that the deliberate rushed behind rule hasn’t already found its place within our competition. Most sides within the league place a strong emphasis on defence, which in turn means they should be more than capable of not conceding as much when under little to no pressure here. A rule that is well overdue to be introduced in my opinion.
Senior teams playing with 22
This is already a view I’ve posed previously but next year is the time to pull the trigger on this. The league is lagging behind its district counterparts in not playing 22, albeit they use 21 and a sub. The competition can accommodate the extra rotation and quite frankly most coaches would be delighted to have the services of one more player.
A more innovative and flexible draw
The recent COVID outbreak has shown sporting leagues need to be flexible and adaptive in the current environment but one thing I think will extend beyond this pandemic is fixtures will become more agile. Split rounds, standalone marquee games, more twilight/night fixtures (in the early months) are just some of the things that I think will be explored more in the future. We already have Anzac Day and Good Friday matches, but it would not surprise me if some clubs take the opportunity to play on Easter Saturday/Sunday or the Queens birthday public holiday, while split rounds give clubs the opportunity to have more marquee games at certain times.
More livestreaming of matches
Now that we have seen the benefit of what live-streaming one game a week can do, it’s time to consider whether a second game could also be done. I know the Ovens and Murray, through 2AY’s O and M Live, have been able to live stream two games a week on Facebook as well as through radio. I’m not saying the Hampden league needs to have a second commentary team, although it would create a good opportunity for expanded coverage, but it can easily get a second game filmed live to social media. Even better, it could give the clubs the opportunity to also hit this field more, which in turn could provide greater sponsorship and advertising opportunities for clubs and their sponsors. Food for thought if you ask me!
The return of the Reid
Of the five, this one is a given presuming there are no further delays but this is something most people in the area would be looking forward too. I know this ground has been quite maligned in the past as a grand final venue but the investment it has received will surely have it on top and rightly so.
I for one am a firm believer of playing the granny at the Reid each season. No disrespect to other clubs, but I grew up watching my own club win flags and that’s the venue I have always dreamed of winning one at. I don’t think any other venue can match the history and the irony of playing the year’s ultimate game there, but even for clubs just playing games against Warrnambool at the redeveloped venue will be a buzz. It’s great as a neutral observer to see the region finally getting the facilities and surface a premier oval should have and no doubt it will be a much better place for football followers to enjoy when complete. Here’s hoping we can continue to see more development within this space across the league in the future!
Author: Fraser Lucas
Well what an interesting past month we have endured!
From the abandonment of a fortnight’s worth of games to last week’s matches proceeding without crowds, it is fair to say we have been in unchartered territory.
But with that comes, in my opinion, an opportunity for the league to potentially be bold and innovative. To do something that has never been done before and that will most likely never be done again.
We currently have a fixture dilemma in play that is still being worked through which potentially creates a chance, for this season only, to do something out of the ordinary.
While I for one am not in favour of extending the season anymore than the games previously scheduled, could the league potentially look at changing its finals series to account for lost games?
Could a top eight finals series work for the current predicament we find ourselves in? Or maybe even a top six? Could the unlucky clubs who miss out on making the finals be given the opportunity to host finals (assuming crowds are permitted) in a bid to recoup some of the lost income clubs have already missed out on?
Imagine the interest and buzz this would create. If we went to a top six or eight finals series, every game from here on in would be a mini final right up until the final week of the home and away season, and each result will potentially have a bigger bearing on the season than other years.
Literally every team would be a chance to potentially play finals for the remainder of the season, given the gap between fourth and 10th is just three victories. The higher finishing teams would still have the opportunity to have a double chance, while the lower-ranking teams would have more to play for in the second half of the year.
Everyone will have a differing view as to how the rest of the season shall unfold but the one thing we all must realise is there is no right or wrong way forward from here. What’s happened is hoped to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and something we hope to never, ever encounter again.
But what we have seen is the AFL experiment with success by relocating its grand final, utilising a bold fixturing strategy and adapting to the climate. While it may be much harder for country football to do something similar, there is no reason why, for one year, we could not try something different to the norm and something historic would fit nicely within the script this unprecedented time has delivered.
Author: Fraser Lucas