Following Collingwood’s 138 point thrashing of Port Adelaide, Mick Malthouse fears that such one sided matches will turn supporters off the game that they love. He is correct in that opinion and this year has indeed seen some massive one sided affairs. Since 1997 we have averaged 3.9 games a season where a team has won by over 100 points, however this year these thrashings have occurred on nine occasions. Admittedly three of them are from new team the Gold Coast Suns, but the differential of 6 matches this year is still above average.
Malthouse fears that free agency will make the issue worse, but Malthouse has also been a critic of the priority pick, a method which virtually landed Collingwood with AFL star Scott Pendlebury. Priority picks are put in place to stop teams constantly being at the bottom of the ladder and hence making the competition more even with less thrashings that Malthouse so fears.
But one of the reasons why Malthouse is so against the priority picks system is because of the situation were teams can tank games in order to acquire better picks for their future. Recently ex Melbourne coach Dean Bailey suggested that he did everything possible to help Melbourne obtain better players for the future, and that was by making sure that they didn’t win games late in the season.
I remember attending Hawthorn’s match against Richmond in Round 21 2005. If Hawthorn lost they would virtually obtain a priority pick for 2006. They were leading at half time by 31 points at half time, of which even me, as a Hawthorn supporter, was surprised and hoped that they would lose the match. A win in an already lost season was inconsequential. A loss and an extra priority pick surely for Hawthorn, must have been the priority.
Richmond thankfully went on to win the match in the dying seconds as they did against Melbourne in 2008. Whilst supporters should be happy for teams near the bottom to acquire some sort of priority picks to make the competition more competitive, having teams lose games on purpose to obtain them compromises the game.
Simply removing them, in my opinion, is not an option. The AFL should develop a method in which priority picks are still present, but are not an incentive for teams to lose on purpose. And this is what I intend to do here.
With 18 teams in the competition next year, this means that 10 teams will miss out on playing finals, of which all of them will receive a priority pick. But before you cry out loud in disapproval, the degree to which the priority pick is handed out is dependant on the position that they finish on the ladder.
A team that finishes last on the ladder will achieve an extra pick at pick number 5, whilst someone finishing second last will achieve an extra pick at pick number 10. Conversely the next lowest team at pick number 15, and then 20. The following is a table outlining what pick is to be given to teams based on their position on the ladder. It also shows the average number of games that a player picked at this point in the AFL draft has played since the year 2000
Pos Priority Pick Av. #Games
18 5 78
17 10 50
16 15 43
15 20 58
14 25 33
13 30 56
12 40 64
11 50 31
10 60 39
9 70 31
As you can see above, the pick number that a team receives as a priority pick increases the further a team is up the ladder. The average number of games that a player has played since the year 2000 also gives an indication about how important that pick is. Note the large average number of games at picks 30/40 due to father/sun picks that would normally not be included in the analysis.
Hence we have a situation where teams that finish near the bottom of the ladder are given an opportunity to improve their playing list the following year, however the difference between finishing last and second last (for example), or 13th compared to 12th is not enough to warrant a team to lose a match on purpose.
There could be an argument that teams finishing just out of the finals (positions 9th and 10th) don’t deserve any form of compensation, but draft picks 60th and 70th rarely provide long term star players and are quite often passed by teams.
Mick Malthouse, in my opinion, is only partially correct that the priority picks should be scrapped because it compromises the game, allowing teams to lose on purpose. I believe they should stay, but should be adjusted similar to that above so that teams near the bottom of the ladder can be compensated, whilst not giving too large a compensation so that teams have no intention to win matches.