It may have happened only because of Covid but this lay-off week before the AFL Grand Final is something I’ve been arguing for a few years now. Why? Because it presents the perfect opportunity to have a return to State of Origin Football, which for those of us old enough and lucky enough to have experienced it, is simply the best of the best.
The break before the finals start never made sense and disempowers higher ranked teams but here’s how this pre-grand final break can be a boon to football.
At the end of the qualifying round, squads are selected from the pool of available players (ie: the 10 clubs knocked out already). I suggest 4 squads for Vic, S.A., W.A. and N.S.W. but as in the old `Carnival’ days, I would not discount Tas and Qld teams, even if those teams had to be bolstered by players from local competitions.
But for now, assume we have four squads. After each final round, two more AFL teams are eliminated, and from these teams more players are added to the initial squads. This means that when we arrive at the point at which we are currently, the two grand finalists in waiting, we have 16 teams contributing to the state squads. This would give us an opportunity of playing ROUND 1 this weekend: For example Saturday Victoria v W.A. , Sunday S.A. v NSW
The winners then go onto play in the final next week, either on the FRIDAY NIGHT BEFORE THE GRAND FINAL or on the SATURDAY DAY. Optional that losers could play off too.
Without Covid such games could be played at venues like the SCG, Adelaide Oval or Optus Stadium. I know the frustration of fans in Perth who cannot get to the MCG for a grand final and I guarantee you’d get a sell out at Optus, and I’m sure in Adelaide for such games. Instead of a boring long kicking contest across the Yarra, the lead into a twilight or night Grand Final at the MCG could be the interstate game. Or play it on the night before if that’s what broadcasters prefer.
The end of the season means that players have more freedom and clubs cannot ban them as would happen pre-season or mid-season. It is perfect timing to see wonderful football. Finals football is a pressure cooker but in these state games players can be more free-wheeling and attacking. Some of the clashes I saw in the 70s and 80s are the best quality of footy I have ever seen.
For those who think that NSW would not have a competitive team, have a look at the side selected this year by the NSW Australian Football History Society.
Reading from backs:
Cunnigham, Howard, Perryman
Duryea, Rampe, Cumming
I.Smith, Mills, Gulden
Breust, Himmelberg, Wicks
Schultz, Hawkins, Marshall
Flynn, Hopper, Heeney
Lloyd, Spargo, Buckley,Koschitze.
Only a few of these players would be unavailable right now to play in a game this weekend.
I believe this system would also give us a chance to better evaluate the ALL AUSTRALIAN SIDE which could then be announced after the Grand Final based on the performances of players in the state games and the Grand Final. Of course, Tasmanian and Queensland and injured players if not given the opportunity in a state game or the Grand Final could still be evaluated on their other performances. The original All Australian sides were determined by players performances in state games. This I believe is a far superior test to determine who deserves to be All Australian than qualifying round club games. The finest players play best against the best opposition.
That’s my suggestion anyway. The Broadcasters would love it, non-Victorian fans who find it prohibitive to get to Melbourne for the Grand Final week would love it because they could still have footy in their state right to the end.
Let’s bring back the best footy of all State of Origin!
Who would you have in your state’s side right now?