Good Friday clash could be rotated

Holy day matches not good for football: religious leaders

The teams that contest the first Good Friday match will not necessarily have a permanent hold on the fixture, with AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan expecting an ideal match-up will reveal itself over time following the league’s decision that it was the “right time” to permit a game to be played on the religious holiday.

While McLachlan said it was not a given that the 2015 fixture would feature a Good Friday match, as it will fall in round one of a late-starting season due to the World Cup cricket final, he said all teams, match-ups, timeslots and venues would be considered when the executive decided when and where the first game would be played.

North Melbourne has pushed longest for a Good Friday game and will most likely play the Western Bulldogs given the club's preferred opponent, Carlton, is expected to be playing the season opener against Richmond on the same weekend.

The Bulldogs have also lobbied the AFL for some time, with Sydney and Gold Coast also pushing their case in recent years. Neither Collingwood nor Essendon are to play on the day having conceded they had had what McLachlan termed a “pretty good run” at the big games.

The CEO said ladder position, and teams that played competitive, fun and watchable football would determine which were given first opportunity to claim the day.

“I think what happens is that permanent slots evolve. I think you go into something like this with the view that you could rotate it,” McLachlan said.

“I think it’s only in the last five years that Hawthorn and Geelong have made Easter Monday their own and I think that’s a great example of what we would hope will happen in this situation. But I don’t think you go in there enshrining anything.”

McLachlan said scheduling two low-drawing clubs would give both the chance to generate a good crowd, while  a stronger club would “mitigate the risk” of a less-than-ideal turnout. The AFL’s fixturing chief Simon Lethlean had consulted many parties, including church groups, Good Friday appeal organisers and broadcasters, as part of his research.

He said a Good Friday clash would more than likely complement the traditional Royal Children’s Hospital appeal broadcast throughout the day on Channel 7, that the Kangaroos' long-held interest would “certainly” be a consideration and that a game played outside Victoria was a definite possibility, with a Gold Coast or Sydney game both appealing.

“What I think is that people want to see a good game. I think it’s more about where the clubs sit on the ladder, and what people view the contest as going to be like is as important as the two teams themselves,” McLachlan said.

“When you look at the Bulldogs and see the football they played on the weekend, they’re a much more appealing team all round today than they were maybe three or four days ago, because they played unbelievable football on the weekend.

“It’s a pretty linear equation; if you play competitive, fun football that people watch, then you’ll get the good slots. It’s as simple as that. If you play non-competitive football it’s very difficult to put you in those good slots. I do think that’s a pretty simple message.”

Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said while voting on a Good Friday game had always been tight, it was the right time to permit a game to be played given community attitudes had changed over time and that most of the AFL's competitors played games on the day.

“There has been a growing appetite to hold a game on this day and on balance we believe the time is right," he said.

“AFL matches are scheduled on every other public holiday during the season and we know that many families want to be able to attend and or watch football together on that day."

 

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