On Friday night, the AFLW kicked off in front of a good crowd of 15000+ at Ikon park to watch Carlton and Richmond getting the season underway. The Blues were victorious with a strong 48-14 win over the Tigers, but along with the season starting, so did the criticism. Most of it around the constant problem with the AFLW competition, a lack of scoring.
Nicole Livingstone, the head of AFLW has today come out and said, “we shouldn’t be focused on scoring, but the contest in the middle of the field”. It’s a ridiculous statement, and one which shows that the game is wanting to be immune from criticism, yet gain all other benefits of being a professional sport.
Across the 7 games, we had top score of 48, three scores in the teens, and a game which had match scores of 9 to 8. Whilst that was played in atrocious conditions, all other games have been played in generally good conditions so there is no excuse there. On 15 occasions over the weekend, a team failed to score in a quarter, there were several more where scores were less than 1 in a quarter.
Last season, on average teams are only scoring 35.7pts a game, this was up from 35.3pts in 2018 and 32.9 in the inaugural season, so whilst it’s increased year on year, it’s simply not enough of an increase to keep people’s interest. Now big scoring doesn’t mean an exciting game, and we did have a lot of close finishes this weekend, but the overall output needs to be greater than we are seeing at the moment. The ball simply doesn’t flow, with a lot of contests and congestion and teams failing to beat the press when coming out of defence. It leads to the ball staying in one half for long periods of the game, without much resulting from it.
We know it will take time and it needs time. They are again expanding the teams, with a further four teams being brought in this season off the back of an increase in two teams last season to now having a competition of 14 teams.
The problem is, there doesn’t look to be the talent depth to accommodate the expansion, which means the product is lessor than hoped, and in a packed sporting market that means problems for the game. It’s no surprise that 4 of the 5 lowest scores were form the expansion teams. With the AFL likely to want to get all AFL teams having an AFLW affiliate, that is another 4 teams to come in, meaning around another 120 girls to come in to play, and you have to wonder if the quality is there at this stage.
Put simply though, people are going to start to demand quality. AFL footy is the biggest sport in the country and AFL sports fans are craving footy at the moment. Having these low scoring games isn’t the way keep fans coming back, so the game needs to find a way to increase it, otherwise the game as a whole will suffer. As noted, before, it needs time, but we live in a society today that doesn’t like waiting, we want everything now, we want quality product or we move on to other things that keep us interested.
So how do we improve the scoring? How can we open the game up and make it
There has been talk in both the men’s game, and originally in the woman’s game, that they should remove the wing position. Could this be the answer? That’s 4 less players on the ground, which should reduce congestion. Also, with the smaller lists they have, it benefits them in that injuries would have less of an effect.
Do we look at trialing the zones that they were talking about recently? It would again reduce the number of players in an area, and stop the forward press that we are seeing, which teams are really struggling to break down.
Do they look at playing on a smaller field? Looking to make it shorter possibly, could this work?
These are all ideas that have been thrown out and it’s time the AFLW head office started to listen. At least until the game and the talent pools has grown sufficiently to enable the game to improve as a whole.
Now, I have two daughters and whilst neither has shown a huge interest of wanting to play footy (one has a genuine love of the game though) the opportunity is still there. It’s an opportunity they didn’t have 4 years ago, so I think it’s critical we get AFLW right so the opportunity stays there, but to do that, they have to listen to the criticism of the game, and accept changes are needed.
Now is not the time to ignore criticism, it’s the time to listen to the constructive criticism and look at ways to improve the game as a whole. Only then will the game grow and we can have a vibrant exciting product that we all want. Cause let’s be honest, the more good footy we get the better I reckon.