Time to shake things up a bit in AFL games

THE SEEMINGLY unthinkable is starting to take its toll – football fatigue.

Over it: Some footy fans are defeated well before the season finishes.

Over it: Some footy fans are defeated well before the season finishes.

New AFL boss Gillon McLachlan has already started to make waves this week about changing the game for the greater good, touting Good Friday football in Sydney – potentially in the form of a Sydney-Melbourne city showdown – and he is taking on stadium operators in a bid to slash high food and drink prices.

Football fatigue is a growing issue that a keen visionary like McLachlan should address. 

And quickly.

McLachlan should put the freeze on home-and-away rounds. Just for a short period each year.

Mix things up a little and give all fans, players and club staff something to look forward to outside routine home-and-away rounds.

We all love our football, especially in our AFL-crazed state Victoria.

The idea of too much football was ridiculous.

Fanatics are lapping it up from NAB Challenge games in early February right through to that one day in September when the Holy Grail is won – with 24 hours of football analysis in broadcast and print.

A few weeks after the grand final, fanatics move from draft and trade mode into an insatiate need to know exactly how their team is training in the summer and debating which club is venturing to the most superior altitude camp.

Christmas can spark withdrawals until a favoured player posts a festive Instagram snapshot.

It is the “interest fan” – not hard core fanatic but those who enjoy watching the game and following a team each week – and the “fringe fan” – those who keep up with the general gist of competition – that have the greatest impact on the game.

They’re a bit like swing-voters in a federal election, and they’re starting to cry fatigue.

Complete football saturation is wearing them down.

The AFL and the grassroots leagues that follow their lead should hit the pause button and change things up.

Interest has started to wane for these swing-supporters right ... about ... now.

We are at the halfway mark of the season and spoilt with choice in rival sports, particularly those beamed from the northern hemisphere.

Even the most avid AFL fan is trying to juggle television viewing hours with the massive FIFA World Cup phenomenon – suddenly non-soccer fans become sucked in and are ‘experts’ on the international soccer landscape. Everyone knows exactly how and when Tim Cahill scores.

Wimbledon starts next week, boasting the most Australian entrants in 11 years, which harks back to year of Lleyton Hewitt’s title defence.

Tour de France cycling, and all its lead-up events, are rapidly transporting more and more bleary-eyed viewers into European summer countryside and picnics every night.

Australian Patty Mills’ NBA championship win with San Antonio Spurs earlier this week will also do wonders for basketball coverage.

The AFL needs a kind of punctuation. Theme rounds are fun but hardly inspiring.

Central Highlands Football League takes a blanket break from competition for the Queen’s Birthday long weekend so players and volunteers are guaranteed that same time off each year.

Victorian Football League breaks each May for a state game.

Maybe a state game, mid-season all-star game or pro-bowl style match is the answer.

It works wonders for the National Rugby League ratings during its State of Origin series – right in the middle of the season.

Maybe McLachlan could create a week or two break for a mid-season draft or trade period to replenish lists, bring in exciting new faces, allow disgruntled players a chance to move and make their mark to the season’s end with a rival club.

Fanatical fans are going to rock up or tune into games no matter what.

It takes until August for those with lukewarm interest or indifference to thaw out. 

By then you can smell finals season.

Whatever McLachlan and the AFL choose, it needs to make a big statement.

melanie.whelan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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