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National reserves comp as part of an Equalisation plan


DeeSpencer

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So the biggest issue at the moment facing that AFL is how to fairly equalise the comp. Obviously the AFL are pretty strong on not ever changing the fixture back to a proper draw or distributing a fair number of high drawing games to the lesser comp. That's their prerogative and I can live it. And the rich clubs are heavily against handouts. So how do we even the comp out? Higher salary caps- no thanks, cash handouts, extra priority draft picks - I don't like any of that. The main problem as the Bulldogs will tell you now and as we can clearly see form Melbourne right now compared to 2010/2011 is what happens when you are a bad side and a small drawing team. You get a double whammy effect that really hurts the club.

Another big issue is the future of the VFL and the unfair advantage Collingwood and Geelong have got from fielding their own reserves whilst other teams like Melbourne prop up the standard of the competition. It's also unfair for interstate teams to have their players spread throughout several teams and for the northern teams for their players to play in the substandard NEAFL.

So I propose we use the equalisation money to fund a proper reserves league again.

I'd split it into two conferences - the West conference (WA, SA, 5 VIC teams) and the East conference (QLD, NSW, 5 VIC teams). Now to construct the 5 Victorian teams I'd split them based on the latter. The first, 4th and 5th placed VIC teams go West, the second, third and sixth VIC team go east. I'd then have a lottery with pre-draft percentages (which can change based on who played where each year) for the bottom 4 to split them one way or the other because to me playing the West teams is probably a disadvantage with the longer flight and time zone change to Perth not to mention the standard of the teams currently.

I'd then make it a 16 a side competition to try and make more AFL players available for selection and to keep costs on non AFL listed players to a minimum. It will also produce a less congested and more skillful form of footy. I'd have a bench from minimum 3 to maximum 6 taking it to 19-22 at the discretion of the clubs with a 23rd man from a relevant junior club ie. TAC (but more on that later). I'd also place training (to stop exploitation of AFL hopefulls) and salary restrictions on non AFL listed players to maintain the integrity of the reserves and not rob the state leagues that now stand alone. Clubs could have up to 2 marquee signings who could earn AFL rookie level wages. Guys like Troy Selwood at Geelong.

To me playing in line with the AFL fixture will represent a problem with ground allocation and timings. I'd go for a separate fixture. As for the fixture I'd have 3 preseason matches the last of which would correspond to AFL round 1. From then I'd run a 16 match season with 2 byes, one before and after the AFL bye weeks to keep the reserves running during AFL byes. For the interstate teams I'd give them 1 preseason match in the other interstate (ie. WA to SA) and 2 home. Same with the VICs, 2 home, 1 away. From then on I'd also draw 3 rivalry rounds a year allowing the interstate teams no travel with derbies and play everyone else twice a year. With the one non conference game also involving minimal travel.

Now how does this factor on equalisation when it's only going to cost the clubs more money? Well my idea here is that all teams end up playing finals come the end of the year and that prize money be distributed based on final result. I'd start to the finals in the fourth last round of the AFL year and have the top 7 in each conference progress through a finals system with second chances and wild cards and the bottom 2 fight it out for rankings 8-9 in each conference and playing the teams from rival conferences in the bottom 2. That way it stretches into September. Then of course a combined grand final. The idea that almost all clubs get to partake in finals is to allow clubs who have been injury ravaged throughout the year to overcome that. If you have 12 injuries on your list you are down to at most 10 guys for your reserve side compared to no injuries at 22 so injuries have to be accounted for.

Now this is where equalisation can come into part. I'd make the prize money very generous and the finals qualifications very relaxed - 4 game minimum in reserves or no more than 5 senior games and 2 game minimum in reserves. That way struggling clubs like Melbourne can field a very strong reserves side towards the second half of the season and give us something to cheer about. Then come the end of the year we will be in reserves finals. Stronger AFL teams will be playing AFL finals and not have the luxury of strong reserves teams. It keeps reserve footy running into September for weaker clubs as well. I'd also introduce a mandatory away from clubs holiday period of October and November for all clubs. End of the day we make it towards the reserves finals and we pick up a couple of extra million.

I'd have 6-9 in each division receiving - 0.5 to 1 million in staggered amounts

5 - 1.25 million

4 - 1.5mil

3 - 1.8 mil

2 - 2.1 mil

grand final loser 2.6 mil

grand final winner 3 mil

Now I believe the NEAFL in QLD/NSW/NT would struggle without the QLD/NSW reserve teams they currently have but I doubt anyone will miss it. NT has a strong league, QLD had a pretty decent stand alone league and NSW/canberra can have a league developed without Tom Mitchell running around getting 56 touches. I believe the WAFL and SANFL will survive without each team having a couple of AFL players in them each week.

The VFL is in for a big change but it's already struggling to accommodate more stand alone AFL and VFL clubs. I suggest the VFL re-emerges as the VFA with Port, Frankston, Werribee, Williamstown, North Ballarat, Bendigo Gold, Sandringham and Coburg. At the same time teams that want to continue alliances like Casey and Box Hill are allowed to with these clubs being their respective AFL teams reserves. There would have to be a separation of lists though otherwise the depth for teams like Casey/Melb would be far greater than anyone else. The Casey demons can play in the AFL reserves with the Casey scorpions playing in the VFA reserves with both teams under the Casey Scorpions club and playing at Casey fields.

Also in line with other states I'd like to see the TAC merged with the (reborn) VFA. The clubs should roughly match up to the TAC clubs - Bendigo, Ballarat, Sandy etc. already do and others make simple changes(Frankston-Dandenong), Williamstown (Western), Coburg (Northern), Werribee (Geelong falcons). It will keep AFL support into the VFA through the under 18 program and provide them with ready players. It would also equalise junior pathways with that of the SANFL and WAFL.

So thoughts:
Positives

- Gives bottom AFL teams a shot at success for the end of the season in the reserves

- Allows struggling smaller teams a way to prevent financially disasterous seasons

- Gives bottom AFL teams a chance to develop a wining culture in their younger players

- Maintains the AFL clubs will focus on keeping a high standard of experienced players who will be vital to be seniors and reserves coming through

- Gives struggling financial clubs a way to earn money legitimately

- 2 teams to cheer on each week

- Opportunity for reserves footy at traditional AFL grounds - Vic park, Princess park, Geelong, Windy Hill, Western Oval

- More big games in WA/SA for footy fans to go to - ie. West Coast fans who can't get into AFL games would attend a Freo v WCE reserves match

- Lets the WAFL, SANFL and VFA stand alone and continue their traditions

Negatives

- Is open to tanking/manipulation - but with no AFL priority pick the incentive isn't there and if you are boosting your reserves for the sake of the seniors in August then what does it matter? At least you are giving your fans something to cheer about and not deliberately giving guys weeks off/sending for surgery

- Dismantles the current VFL structure and changes second tier footy in other states however I can see this as a positive as the current VFL structure has been rewarding the rich at expense of the poor both for AFL and stand alone VFL clubs.

- Increased travel for young players - however for example Freo reserves I'd schedule 8 home games, 2 away to WC, 1 away to Port and Adel and 4 trips to Melb. For Melb reserves 8 home games, 4 away in Melb, 4 away in WA/SA.

- Increased expense for the AFL/Clubs - travel allowance for the interstate teams extra 2 travels and prize money to be funded by the AFL. The clubs should be able to recoup their costs in prize money along with ticketing/sponsorship etc. The AFL can diminish the amount spent on equalistion which is much higher than this prize money - http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-news/rich-clubs-kick-up-stink-over-funding-20110926-1ktlh.html

- If your list is a complete mess and also you have terrible coaching you might end up bad in both competitions leaving you in a financial and football black hole

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