IF THE AFL was a picturesque European village of the distant past – and a case can certainly be made – there would have been limited, if any, employment opportunity for town criers.
Not much point in announcing, for example, “Eight o’clock and all’s well!” when the official position of the township’s rulers is that regardless of the hour, everything is always well, if not exceedingly well.
Of course, there could have been a hiccup in this program of jollity last week, had Fremantle acted less than honourably. As the games roster stood for the weekend, the club was put in a position whereby it may have been possible to fiddle score-line or result to achieve a more favourable finals path the following week.
Showing a commendable dedication to one of sport’s most basic principles – or a lack of sufficient ingenuity to find a way to lose to Melbourne, but let’s take it as the former rather than the latter – Fremantle won the battle, but perhaps screwed up the war, landing a Melbourne final against Geelong, rather than a derby against the Eagles on home turf.
It might be argued there was no need for such an outcome to be on the optional list in the first place. If we look at the World Cup, even under Sepp Blatter, the European nations championship (“Euro”), or the FA Premier League, they all choose to play the final round of individual group games, (in the first two cases), or league fixtures so that all such matches are played simultaneously.
It’s a heck of an idea when you think about it, as it tends to avoid the more obvious pitfalls in the areas of skulduggery and “favours” being done for other teams, or one’s own.
The practice was born, “some say”, out of a 1982 World Cup group stage final round in which a, err – how can one put this, exactly – “mutually convenient result” in a West Germany-Austria match resulted in Algeria going home, the European teams both progressing, and, subsequently, a FIFA quiet decision that each group stage’s final games would be played simultaneously in future. Thirty years later might be time enough in AFL Happy Valley for the village elders to take a look at the idea. The TV folks will squeal, but one perhaps senses a growing public sentiment, especially re ongoing fixture-fiddling, that the TV folks can go hang.
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