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AFL ponders lightning carnival to kick off Cup
Authored by: Brett Northey on Saturday, February 19 2011 @ 12:05 pm ACDT

We don't have a lot of details yet, but my first impressions were that the lightning carnival style would be a good idea.

It has been well discussed that if every team goes in one division then the bottom sides get smashed and several of them in the past have said that it did damage their International Cup experience - a lot of money and a lot of effort and a long way to come to not really even be competitive.

On the other hand if there are separate divisions then the lower sides never get a chance to test themselves against the best and see what the higher standard is like.

This is why I like the idea of a lightning tournament to start with, provided it is implemented well.  I'm guessing it would see teams seeded and then play a series of short matches against teams from right across the full seeding range.

Here's an example, purely me brainstorming, I don't know if the AFL have this sort of thing in mind.

Say there are 24 nations and you could use our World Rankings as a starting point.

Have a top team like New Zealand (3rd) play 5 games against teams considered outside of their local ranking, e.g. 5 games of 2x12 minutes against USA (6), Great Britain (10), Japan (14), Peace Team (provisional rank only) and Switzerland (unranked but could use Europe 9s rankings we've produced).

I'd expect NZ to win all 5 games comfortably, even with the short matches.  In game time it would be like about 1 and half games in one day.  But if NZ lost say to the US because the US was better then quite rightly the US would get ranked higher instead.  But it is shorter games so not quite fair on NZ given their strong ranking from past success.  However, they would not fall very low on the ladder and if division one was top 8 or 10 they would still be in division one, so have plenty of chance during the normal rounds of the next 2 weeks to win their pool and win the Cup.

A top ranked side would get to play a range of matches but not be tested against the very very best.  Only if they lost 2 games would they risk falling out of div 1, and quite rightly so.

Similarly all teams would play 5 games against sides outside of the ranking zone.

A lower ranked side would get the chance to play some shortened games against middle and top ranked sides, so they would probably get some bad losses, but the clock will limit the damage.  They then get to play amongst their peers for the rest of the tournament.  If they were a real surprise team and much better than anyone thought, they do have the chance in those first 2 days to upset some middle sides and maybe squeeze into div 1.

The middle rankers would be where the true battle is.  If there were 10 div 1 spots then the teams anywhere from about 5th to 15th would be vying for the lower ends of div 1.  Percentage would probably decide 1 or 2 spots.

Again, this is just my thoughts based on the basic info contained the story above.  The AFL may have something quite different in mind, but if not, that's my suggestion.

The advantages are that initially ALL teams can genuinely have a chance of winning the Cup, they are not excluded.  And ALL teams get to play against a range of opposition from across the world and across the rankings.  But ultimately the best teams will fight it out in div 1 and the lower teams in div 2, still with something to play for.

Perhaps with so much cross over and so many teams (hopefully) then the AFL could look seriously at adopting a ranking scheme such as ours and seed teams straight into divisions in 2014.  Or use tournament like the Oceania Cup and European Championships to sort teams.

Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN
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