Our AFL experts Niall Seewang, Jake Michaels and Matt Walsh dissect all of the main talking points ahead of Round 12.
Are the Blues or Kangaroos more appealing to a prospective coach?
NS: It's pretty lineball in my opinion. A lot of people assume the natural improvement from some of Carlton's elite young talent will carry the club forward, but there's still a lot of average players on that list. The Kangaroos, however, have a more even spread of talent, and their age profile is better balanced. Plus there's the whole-club perspective - would prospective applicants be nervous about the Blues' recent history with coaches, as opposed to North's relative stability?
JM: Despite being anchored to the bottom of the ladder, there's a fair bit that will excite Blues fans, not to mention the club's next coach. Let's be honest, Carlton can't go any lower right now so a new coach is going to receive plenty of credit for taking them up the ladder. With North Melbourne, it's an ageing list that has consistently been a mid-table team. That's nowhere near as appealing as finishing off the rebuilding job started by Brendon Bolton.
MW: There would be more instant gratification for a coach taking over the North Melbourne job, but with Carlton's list profile (finally) at its youngest and least experienced, coaches in waiting would be mad to pass up the opportunity to take advatnge of the talent as it starts to mature.
Is the AFL treating its clubs and fans with contempt?
NS: Looking at all available evidence -- an error-prone score review system, horrific inconsistency between its umpiring, the Match Review Officer and tribunal setup, heavy-handed crackdowns on some fans, decision-making making on the run, questionable rule changes and 'nothing to see here' messaging -- then yes, we are all getting treated with contempt. The League needs to get the basics right - on and off the field.
JM: The AFL's inability to TWICE get the correct result from a score review in Round 11 is an absolute farce. This should be a very simple task for a professional sporting league, yet the AFL still can't seem to get it right. Combine this with the horribly inconsistent verdicts coming from Match Review Officer Michael Christian and it's little wonder clubs and fans have been left infuriated in season 2019.
MW: I'm going to go in a different direction here - you just have to look at how the AFL has handled recent cases involving its fans. Firstly, the 'please explain' to the Carlton cheersquad for beating a drum, and most recently the banning of a Richmond supporter for yelling out "be consistent you green maggot". I mean, seriously, don't bite the hand that feeds you.
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How far can Fremantle go in 2019?
NS: I think the Dockers have produced arguably the best two wins of the season -- away victories against flag fancies GWS and Collingwood -- which shows Ross Lyon's mob are capable of mixing it with the big guns. However, inconsistency is still an issue, as shown by their spot just outside the top eight. If they continue to improve, on the back of a miserly defence, then they could perhaps even win a final. Bring on a Derby final!
JM: I'll be honest, I didn't have the Dockers finishing in the top eight this year. In fact, I didn't think they'd even be battling for finals. Their stingy defence -- which is only conceding 70 points per game -- is the reason they are having success this year. If their inconsistent forwards can get going then who knows what this club's ceiling is? Maybe they can play finals after all and spring a surprise.
MW: Any team that beats GWS in Canberra and Collingwood at the MCG has to be taken seriously, right? For so long the Dockers were known as home track bullies, but perhaps were seeing the maturation of this team for real. They're now 6-5 and above the ledger - if they can keep winning at home they may make the eight.
Does the current bye set-up work?
NS: I would prefer a complete competition-wide break, rather than three consecutive six-game rounds, just to give fans and those involved with the industry a chance to take a breath and get away from footy for a week! I'm not a fan of the Round 23 break either, to be honest. Bring in a 17-round season with two full byes, extended finals and a preseason competition that actually means something.
JM: I've never been a big fan of the bye weeks and certainly wouldn't complain if they scrapped them altogether. However, it's pretty clear the players need and enjoy the week off, so I guess they're here to stay. In terms of the structure, it probably couldn't be improved. Just imagine all the complaints if the AFL gave every team the same weekend off and there was no action...
MW: Less footy is better than no footy, and thinking back to the split round of around a decade ago, I'm not fussed either way. Byes are clearly here to stay as the season incredibly gruelling on the players' bodies, and spacing out the bye rounds over three weeks is a pragmatic way to go about it. Be thankful the AFL hasn't (yet!) copied the NFL - some teams cop their bye in week 4...