Rohan Connolly says that the introduction of a wildcard round to decide the final two finals participants would effectively compromise the integrity of the entire AFL home-and-away season.
The system, currently being investigated as a way to extend interest in the home-and-away season until its conclusion, would see the ninth and tenth-placed sides having a chance of claiming a spot in the finals ahead of the sides finishing in seventh and eighth.
This wildcard round would see seventh place take on tenth and eighth verse ninth in two sudden-death games, with the reward to be a place in the following week’s elimination finals against the sides finishing in fifth and sixth place.
This method of determining the final eight is similar to the playoff systems used in many major sports leagues in the United States.
Connolly has been incensed by the reports the AFL are considering such a system, slamming the wildcard round as a way to reward sides who deserve no place in September.
“I’m absolutely filthy on it… it compromises the integrity of the season.” he said on SEN’s The Super Box.
“If you haven’t been able to play well enough to work your way into a position of strength, why should you be rewarded with even a chance of playing finals?...I reckon that’s rubbish.
“We’ve got the most even, exciting season we’ve ever had, where bottom can easily beat top every week. Do we need more excitement than that? You’ve got 198 home-and-away games and not all of them are going to be riveting viewing. It’s like people have the attention spans of goldfish.
“It is rewarding mediocrity.”
The senior football reporter at The Age also teed off on a similar system to the wildcard round possibility, which would see the sides finishing between seventh and twelfth after 17 rounds play a five-game round-robin series against one another, with the top two sides to join the top six in finals actions.
This 17-5 split-fixture system would also see the top six sides go against one another to decide the top four and the double chance that goes with it, while the bottom six would in theory play-off to decide the draft order of the top six picks, with the club with the best record after the five games handed the coveted number one selection.
It is also believed that by reducing the main season to 17 rounds, equality of the draw can be enforced with each side only facing each other once in this period, with clubs likely to rotate the hosting of each fixture every year.
Connolly believes this alternative system diminishes the value of the season just as much as the wildcard round would.
“If in reality you only have to finish in the top six to be able to get yourself in a position to qualify for qualifying finals, wouldn’t clubs rest players right throughout the course of a season, not just one week?” he said.
“At the bottom end of the ladder, they say this solves the tanking issue. Pardon me, but I thought when we got rid of the priority picks we did get rid of the tanking issue?
“What’s the point of even playing a season and 18 games if you can still be as low as 12th and have a chance of playing finals? It just devalues the point of the whole season.”
Carlton coach Brendon Bolton however believes that any concept which could extend interest in the home-and-away season should be investigated.
“I think that anything that generates real interest at the back end of the year and that, more importantly, makes the fixture fairer should be explored and brainstormed,” he said.