If AFLW is the sister to the AFL, than AFLX is the little brother.
The new, innovative format of our proud Australian game was rolled out yesterday at Hindmarsh stadium and will continue today and this weekend, with every club having a crack at the new form of the game.
I watched it last night... and I thought it was okay.
There's some good, some bad, and definitely some ugly about the concept but all in all I'd give it a pass mark.
First of all, what is AFLX? Basically, it's the AFL we know and love with some adjustments:
1. The game is played on a rectangular field, the same size as a soccer pitch.
2. 10 players per team, seven on the field and three on the bench.
3. If the ball goes out of bounds, a free kick is awarded against the team that last touched it or kicked it over the boundary line.
4. Two 10-minute halves will be contested.
5. A 'super' goal will be awarded to a team that kicked from outside the 40 m arc and is worth 10 points.
They may be the semantics but how did the game pan out in practice?
It was an incredibly free flowing and skillful game. Despite the smaller gruond their was ample free space for players to throw the ball around by hand or or run into to receive a kick. All in all the skills were very good and goals were easy to come by.
It was great for teams to showcase their young talent. Dockers fans would be licking their lips at the prospect of Andrew Brayshaw, their 2017 no. 2 draft pick playing a couple senior games this year. He showed his class with a calm, super goal in his game against Port, which topped off an impressive performance from the youngster.
The Coasters went for a markedly inexperienced team, with 40-odd gamer Liam Duggan captaining the side, and it showed on the scoreboard with two losses in the tournament. They were competitive however, Willie Rioli kicked hit the scoreboard with a particularly special snap that caught the attention of all Eagles fans. Jake Petruccelle's pace impressed as well... at one stage against Collingwood he put on the afterburners, stepped past an opponent and slotted a goal on the run! A smokey to be playing round one.
Similarly to the JTC pre-season cup, the game just isn't football. It's a shadow of the game. AFL purists craving the hard contest, the pack marks and intensity around the ball would have been left wanting. This game is for the athletes, which is great, but any ruckman or stronger bodied player would definitely struggle. Isn't one of the joys of our game that ANYONE can play? From Stuart Dew at over 100 kegs to the 10-foot-tall giant Aaron Sandilands?
Again, a problem often sited in the JTC cup is that it's annoying seeing teams match-up with teams of varying experience. Geelong and Adelaide played teams that were older, harder bodies, whereas the Eagles played a very young team. I like seeing one or two younger players having a crack but it's hard to maintain interest when teenagers are lining up against men. Why can't a separate under 21s team, similar to a colts team, play in a tournament to show off the young bloods? Matches would be more competitive and more up and coming talent would be on display!
Timing is always difficult for the AFL, what with every team having their own groomed pre-season training schedule, but the timing of this tournament was off. Why on earth the AFL would put this on at the same time as the AFLW is beyond me. If the AFL are trying to promote the women's game it makes no sense to have this other fledgling concept on in the background, dragging much needed eyes away from the ladies and towards the games played on the soccer pitch. They needed to do the tournament mid-week or just at a time away from the AFLW. No brainer.
The silver footy and the flashing lights were gimmicky and to be honest, annoying. It adds nothing to the game, doesn't make the spectacle any more appeasing to watch to why do it? I'm there to watch the football not the flashing posts or the smoke blowing out behind the goals after a 'zooper' goal. It detracts from the look of the game making it tacky. I don't know how the Big Bash gets away with it and the AFL should be better than that. And if they think the flashing lights aspect is going to garner international support then you're really writing off the wider sporting community. People watcht he game for the skill and the contest... not to be wowed by the pretty lights.
Maybe a C+ over all. I could take it or leave. Nonetheless it did whet my appetite and I'm looking forward to the watching for of the AFLW and then for the men to get it on once again...