AFL's US-inspired two-day draft fails to impress

Unnecessarily Americanised. There's no better way to sum up the 2018 edition of the AFL Draft.

The event may not have featured cheerleaders, giant cups of beer or even loud music but there was no mistaking that it was the latest United States-inspired sporting initiative to be introduced into the AFL. For the first time in history the draft was run over two days and featured live pick trading, two elements which in theory were supposed to bolster excitement and add to the drama of it all.

On paper it sounded promising and oozed potential but as Thursday night rolled on, the five minute gaps between selections went from being tedious to frustrating to just plain excruciating. As a result, those at Marvel Stadium, and thousands more around the country, were left screaming "just get on with it!"

Twenty-two selections in a little over two hours highlighted just how much opening night dragged on. What's worse? Even if a club submitted their pick early, everyone had to wait the full five minutes before it was revealed by monotone AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan. Utter nonsense.

The AFL is no stranger to looking to the United States to enhance its "gameday experience", however, this one felt like a swing and a miss, at least in year one. It really raises the question of whether or not a two day event is necessary for the AFL Draft.

A draft over multiple days works in the NFL for a number of reasons, not least because there are almost twice the number of teams who need to pick up 'the next big thing'.

With 32 franchises all on the clock, it would be madness not to hold it over the three days it currently does. Also, the sheer quantity of selections mean it simply couldn't take place in a single day. Earlier this year there were 256 players selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, a figure which dwarfs the 78 picked over the past two days in Melbourne.

On the first evening of the NFL Draft (also usually a Thursday -- nice homage, AFL), teams announce their first-round draft selections. That's at least 32 picks compared to the AFL's 18 (or, after academy bids, 22). Put simply, this gives viewers far more value, not to mention the television gold that ensues off the back of the NFL inviting (very vocal) fans into the fold to lift the atmosphere.

Compare this to Thursday night at Marvel Stadium and the contrast couldn't have been more stark. Those who were invited to the Victory Room looked as if they were dying of boredom as they waited for picks to be revealed. There was just not enough happening and almost no flow in the night's proceedings.

Another difference with the NFL is that teams are not required to chew up their entire allotted time before making a selection. This was a bizarre move by the AFL and one that in truth came across as a little disrespectful towards viewers watching at home.

Carlton had known for months they were taking Sam Walsh with pick No. 1, while Gold Coast, St Kilda and Port Adelaide were all almost certain to pick in the order they did. To make viewers wait while bureaucracy reigned was disappointing. Meanwhile, the television panellists struggled to fill air time and their frequent "he comes from good stock", "he's a bolter", or "he's slid down the draft order" remarks were constantly interrupted with the cringeworthy alarm that alerted the room a pick was in.

Thankfully on Friday afternoon the draft speed went up a notch and the AFL managed to get through 56 picks in a little over two and half hours. Teams still had five minutes to make a selection but if it wasn't required, the pick was announced there and then. No waiting. No unnecessary delays. Oh, and it didn't feel rushed at all.

Until a couple of months ago the AFL's plan was to open the event up to supporters, who would be allowed into a 'fan zone' while the event was taking place live. Perhaps this is the path it needs to take in 2019 to fill in time between picks and give fans a sense of involvement in the process.

The AFL seems intent on continuing the gradual Americanisation of the game and to be honest it does make sense. Ultimately there's no better model to work off than the NFL.

With it's own draft, the AFL seemingly has two choices. It can either revert to a one day format which has worked well for years or continue with a two day event but put more effort in to make it a spectacle. The 'middle ground' the draft found itself in this year simply left fans underwhelmed and ultimately frustrated.