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Three Grand Finals A Fairer Deal – Stats Say Otherwise

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Here’s a new argument to get your collective and individual teeth in to.

Since 1987 when the West Coast Eagles and Brisbane Bears entered the then VFL, interstate teams have reached the grand final many times. All but one of those games has been played at the MCG. Currently, fuelled further by Caroline Wilson’s recent comments on 3AW’s Sportsday program about the subject, Adelaide Crows coach Don Pyke and outgoing Sydney Swans Chief Executive Andrew Ireland are two strong voices pushing the idea.

It seems that the rationale is about fairness and removing “home” advantage for Victorian clubs, and by playing three grand finals for a best of three result this will be reduced. But the idea is fraught with inconsistencies. Not only that, but sheer statistics make a case against the idea. The clubs, AFL, sponsors and businesses would undoubtedly welcome three major events each year. Think of the money raised.

But that might be all it is – a money grab – and not an equaliser as suggested by advocates of the change. A look at the data over the past 31 years shows the following:

1. Since 1987 there have been 32 grand finals contested (including the drawn final in 2010)
2. Interstate (non-Victorian) teams have been involved in 20 of those grand-finals
3. Of those 20 grand final appearances, the non-Victorian team has won 12 times
4. Of those 20 grand final appearances, the non-Victorian team has lost 11 times
5. On three of those occasions the grand final has involved two non-Victorian teams

That raw data already suggests that the chances of an interstate team winning a grand final at the MCG is just slightly better than 50/50. If a grand final is genuinely supposed to be a 50/50 contest (two teams, like heads and tails) then the VFL/AFL grand finals in the era of interstate teams is right on track for that.

This quells the argument somewhat that there is a Victorian advantage. Even if you completely remove the three contested grand finals which featured two interstate teams, you still have a nine to eleven result favouring Victorian teams – not exactly a domination.

As Wilson noted in her discussion on 3AW, the noise surrounding perceived Victorian advantage dissipated somewhat after the West Coast Eagles won the 2018 flag against Collingwood.

Don Pyke questioned the fairness of the existing (and long-standing) tradition to play grand finals at the MCG – now locked in until 2057 – and has lobbied for change. Some believe it was his sour grapes response to losing the 2017 grand final. But others believe that the 2017 result – where Adelaide had a better record across the season than Richmond – proved that the current system is flawed and unfair.

However, history has shown that more than once in the AFL/VFL era a team that has performed best across the season stumbles at the final hurdle. History tells us that is what happens when the best team ON THE DAY wins. It also makes a mockery of a finals series at all in that any unfairness could potentially be removed by awarding the premiership to the team that wins the minor premiership. Finals were brought in to take the top four, five, six or eight teams after the home and away season and allow them to gladiatorially fight things out for a last team standing result.

It is an interesting argument on both sides, and one that will no doubt be resolved in due course. But a best of three tournament (like Rugby League’s State of Origin) to decide the premier is only needed if there is unfairness.

And the statistics above do not support that argument.
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Three Grand Finals A Fairer Deal – Stats Say Otherwise | 1 comments | Create New Account
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Three Grand Finals A Fairer Deal – Stats Say Otherwise
Authored by: Harley Vague on Thursday, November 15 2018 @ 05:56 pm ACDT

Let's get something straight and admit that there are certain clubs have certain advantages in the AFL. Interstate clubs travel every fortnight and Victorian clubs don't. Victorian clubs play at finals venues more than interstate clubs. Some clubs have powerful advantages through history, population or location.

The AFL has a 'compromised' draw' and people say it's not 'fair' because teams don't play each other twice. Playing each other twice does not enshrine 'fairness' because teams contest other teams at different times. One team may be peaking or another team suffering injuries. Is that fair? What about the team's whose player is removed by another team's actions. The offending team is penalised but the next opposing team benefits. That is totally unfair.

The AFL has a draft to help equalise competitiveness. Is that fair ? Is it fair that some clubs cannot benefit from years of extra draft picks? Is in unfair that some clubs are hopeless with their recruiting or hopelessly run?

To even halfway approach fairness the AFL would have to adopt Olympic conditions, that is, each club would have to start each year from the same point with the same facilities and the same staff. There is an AFL player salary cap. That would have to be extended to a coaches salary cap, and a staff salary cap. All grounds would have to standardised and all facilities would have to be uniform. In the end all games would have to be played at an equip-distant point say Alice Springs.

Football is unfair. The MCG is a huge advantage to Victorian teams. Let's simply admit that and laud the interstate clubs for being that much better. As for the particular subject of a grand final series I only have to look at the Grand Final replays that follow drawn games to see the (lack of) enthusiasm. The deciding game IS the grand final. That is where all the emotion is contained and a second game will have have only half the tension of a knockout grand final. The first 'grand final' would be just another final.

I'm glad that people are fixated on the wrong side of fairness and are oblivious to the emerging unbalances of football. Has it not occurred to Victorians that Adelaide and particularly Perth are major cities supporting only two AFL clubs. Even Brisbane cranked up to be a powerhouse once and when it did, it had the backing of Australia's third largest city. Depending on which k.p.i. you use, the Swans are the best 'supported' club in Australia and eventually they will be overtaken by the Giants. People say there are too many clubs in Melbourne, which is wrong. The distribution of fans does not support 9 teams in Melbourne. Are people going say that is fair?

Let's just drop the word 'fair' from the football vocabulary because it's not fair some teams have better players, better coaches, are umpires favourites etc and win. It's not fair that AFL coaches have descended to obnoxious boring strategies solely to win football games thus depriving fans of entertaining games of football to watch.