Readers of the Mongrel, you impress me – this is our third QnA and not only are the questions getting better, we’re getting more and more! More questions, means more content, let’s get into it!

THE RICHMOND JOURNEY: HOW MUCH WITH BLAKE CARACELLA’S DEPARTURE AFFECT RICHMOND’S FLAG ASSAULT THIS SEASON AND THEIR SEASON AS A WHOLE NEXT YEAR?

Jason Irvine:  Contracted until next year, I’m really unsure why he wants to leave. Certainly with Riewoldt and Lynch still to work out best how to play with each other, Caracella’s departure won’t be favorable. The Tigers got Caracella ahead of the 2017 premiership year which worked wonders as he taught the mosquito fleet all about ball movements, something that seems to have rubbed off on each player within the football club as Richmond do it best. The small forwards at Richmond’s disposal know the  gameplan well, it’s up to Hardwick and whomever replaces Caracella as to whether they want to continue with the same, tried and successful method, or a completely new one. I don’t think this decision hinders Richmond’s shot at a flag now or in the near future, it’s fine up forward right now. Caracella should be involved in the entirety of the season and that includes finals.

HB Meyers: Caracella isn’t an idiot. Hardwick will be senior coach at Richmond for as long as he likes – premierships buy you time (see below). He’s done the apprenticeship and seen what it takes at multiple clubs, culture-wise to win a flag and will now go back to Essendon, where things aren’t quite as stable in the head coaching ranks. The Richmond culture is strong and the team is full of mature heads to hold things together – I can’t see them faltering at all with the impending departure of Caracella, but it will be interesting to see if whoever replaces him adds something new to the team, or undoes the great work Caracella has been part of.

Sam Marcolin: Blake Caracella has been highly rated since he was at Geelong. I can’t see it having any impact on this season, and if Richmond don’t win the flag it won’t be because Caracella is going to Essendon for next year. I’m sure the senior heads in the footy department see this as much as an opportunity for fresh voices around the team as anything else. As for the coach in question, I’m sure he’ll be very much looking forward to a change in scenery, and there’s no question Essendon will be better off for having him.

Trent Shields: After dwelling on this for a few days, I don’t think the impact will be debilitating. He is committed to the club until the end of the season, and a person with his integrity would never consider not putting his best foot forward at all times (especially as he’s likely to inherit the Bombers role sooner rather than later). Likewise Richmond have enough time now to explore the best candidate to replace him while still continuing on with the business of trying to win the 2019 flag. Senior coaches don’t necessarily have to be replaced to drive new ideas, but an influx of new players and support staff are an essential element to maintaining relevance and staying ahead of the pack.

BILL QUARRY: SHOULD SHORT KICKS LENGTHENED TO 20M?

Julian Russo: No, the rule works, it’s just hard when the game is moving so quick for umpires to determine.

Matthew Passmore: This is an interesting one, and I don’t really agree with the argument. The suggestion is based on umpires not being able to measure 15m, therefore a longer kick means an underestimate brings the decision to about 15m. But I think umps should just pay the decisions correctly. Secondly, people suggest that longer kicks would create less congestion, but I think forcing a long kick actually takes away a short option and will likely create more contests.

Jason Irvine: No, the distance is fine, sometimes it just isn’t measured correctly. By increasing the kicking distance, I think it’ll create more congestion around the ball, but on the other hand, would possibly be less crowded when a player is taking a kick.

Nick Sluggett: No. I just think the umpires need to err on the side of not paying them for any kicks that are too short. Too many times umpires get sucked in to paying a mark.

HB Meyers: If we get umps calling play on for borderline kicks right now, we wouldn’t have to worry too much about this. Some kicks I’ve seen paid have barely been ten metres. Things are okay as they are as long as they’re umpired correctly.

Sam Marcolin: No, umpires just need to start getting the actual distance as it currently stands right. Seems to pretty much be the consensus here.

Trent Shields: No, I didn’t think there was a problem with the current distance, execution of skills is one of the primary determinants of good players versus less than good players. Coaches will exploit a 20m rule anyway. Let the players play, and make umpiring simpler!

DEB MORRICE: WHAT’S UP WITH ALL OF COLLINGWOODS INJURIES?

Julian Russo: Poor player management? Bad luck? I don’t know.

Matthew Passmore: You’d have to look at the consistency and type of injury to determine bad management. It’s probably just bad luck.

Jason Irvine: Happens to every team, remember the Dogs of 2016? I’m not saying the Pies will win the premiership but it’s always cruel to not catch a break. A strong team at the best of times, but some injuries are happening to players who have gone down in the past like Moore and Wells. Perhaps rushing then back wasn’t the answer and why so many are now taking a cautious approach to be fit for a 2020 timeframe.

HB Meyers: This has got to be bad luck. Two weeks ago they were talking about the surface at Optus Stadium in WA as being the cause of a rash of injuries. Now there is an issue with Collingwood. Things like this ebb and flow, and before you know it, the fitness crew at another club will be under the pump.

Sam Marcolin: It’s probably just bad luck. I mean how many players have been out for the season because of a torn retina? It could also be the later start to preseason catching up with them, although West Coast have seemed to escape the curse which has significantly impacted the other three preliminary finalists.

Trent Shields: There is no consistent theme to the injuries, apart from the regular occurrence so that doesn’t suggest a fundamental flaw with the conditioning of players. A combination of impact, soft-tissue, freak, joint, upper body, lower body are simply horrible bad luck. I expect them to bounce back strongly next year.

GEOFF S HOLDER: WILL GRUNDY LEAVE COLLINGWOOD?

Julian Russo: If they miss the finals, he should, but he won’t.

Matthew Passmore: Depends on the contract offered. He is looking to maximise his career, which I can’t fault. I think Collingwood will eventually offer what he wants and he will stay.

Jason Irvine: I don’t reckon he will. Collingwood haven’t been on the lookout for another ruckman so would have to go hard to get another of Grundy’s calibre. Cox is a forward-ruck and the style just works that way. It’d be all about the length of the contract and if it’s three years for a bloke that’s 25 years old, does that say Collingwood have him in their sights past 2022? He’s a top three ruck, they have to keep him!

Nick Sluggett: If they don’t offer him a longer term deal, then yes he should. I am staggered a club run as well as the Pies can’t see that Grundy could potentially be the number one player in the competition already… Pay the man!

HB Meyers: I think he’ll stay, but he is going to maximise his earning capacity. He’ll be All-Australian ruck this year (not on the bench) and might win another couple of awards along the way, including the Copeland. If the Pies want him, they’re going to have to pay – imagine trying to lowball your B&F and All-Australian? I can’t see this one being one of those “I’m going to take less to help the team” situations, either. These are Grundy’s prime earning years, right now. He’ll stay a Pie, but they’ll be paying him top dollar to make that a reality.

Sam Marcolin: I don’t see it happening, but there’s every chance he gets a monster, long term offer from somewhere that isn’t the Holden Centre. Collingwood probably wouldn’t have too much salary cap space to play with, so if the disparity is enormous it might come down to a question of loyalty.

Trent Shields: No, he’s a marquee player and Eddie wouldn’t let it happen as much for the PR disaster as the impact to their playing fortunes. Maybe he’ll win the Brownlow and the decision will be made for him?

SHAUN MITCHELL: SHOULD UMPIRES BE A FULL TIME PROFESSIONAL CAREER OR STAY AS IS?

Julian Russo: It should, but it can’t, it would cost too much to run from the AFL’s perspective.

Matthew Passmor: Hundred percent should be a full time profession

Jason Irvine: Am strong in saying that it should be. Or at least allow the umpires a say at meetings to get their views on how to game is run so interpretations are universal.

HB Meyers: Yes…. them and Mongrel Punt owners deserve good money for what they do, and also deserve to be able to do it full time – become a patron, damn it! 🙂

Sam Marcolin: Yes, it should be. Logistically, there’s a bit to sort out though.

Trent Shields: No, they already get good money – there aren’t enough games or stimulation to get the right people to do the job. The solution is making their job easier to officiate not more difficult. Get Hocking, Bartlett etc out of the kitchen!

STEVEN MCKRILL: WITH TIM KELLY NOT PUTTING PEN TO PAPER, HE MUST BE HEADING WEST TO EAGLES OR DOCKERS?

Julian Russo: I think so, I also think that the media should stop asking Kelly and start asking his partner, it’s her decision.

Matthew Passmore: Kelly is definitely heading west. Contrary to reports, he has no issue with Fremantle. Freo have more bargaining power. All the Dockers players got around Kelly at the end of the game last week, so it’s evident they’re courting him. Expect the Dockers to make the more appealing offer as far as Geelong is concerned, which puts them ahead of the game- but the Eagles often are the more desirable club.

Jason Irvine: The more I read and think about it, the more likely I see it happening. The press conference the other day confirmed the decision I believe with his choice of words quite precise.

Nick Sluggett: I am firmly off the belief he will be going back to WA. I also believe that he is still going to be giving the Cats 100% during this season.

HB Meyers: He’s gone. No contract signed, wanted a trade last off-season. Join the dots.

Sam Marcolin: Unfortunately, as a Cats supporter, gone. See it as an opportunity to build up the list with high end talent though.

Trent Shields: I think it’s a fait accompli, the postponement of contract talks, the carefully worded scripts from player and manager – it’s a very common pattern. I think the Cats will be well compensated regardless of who they deal with, and I’d suggest they’ll be in a better position long term than they would be with Kelly.

Jonathon Pope: Can Carlton win a premiership in 2020?

Julian Russo: Why not? I love their list and they’re finally starting to find their identity under David Teague.

Matthew Passmore: I think it is unlikely, but very far from impossible.

Jason Irvine: Not just yet. I think their improved style now would definitely fit the mould of an AFLX Cup, but sadly that’s past. Anything can happen. Besides, they finished “second” in the AFLW so you’ve always got that to set your sights on.

HB Meyers: No. I think if they start pushing for a spot between seventh and tenth, that is a solid base for 2021. We’re getting very carried away with this at the moment, but the Blues are one injury to you-know-who away from disaster. Their rise back up the ladder will be a marathon, not a sprint… irrespective of how impatient supporters are.

Sam Marcolin: An AFLW flag? Probably. Look it’s certainly within the realms of possibility, but so is Mick Malthouse returning to senior coaching. 2020 probably won’t be their year, but 2022 seems a pretty reasonable suggestion, or maybe 2021 if they have a Brisbane-like rise next year.

Trent Shields: In a word – no. However the signs have been very promising for a return up the ladder. While it is possible to springboard into contention seemingly from nowhere, refer Brisbane, the existing competition at the top end is too advanced to all fall away by next year to allow the Blues to leapfrog everyone. 2022 after potentially 3 years in the finals might be a more realistic date provided everything goes right.

PETER MONAGLE: HOW MANY YEARS DOES ONE PREMIERSHIP GIVE A COACH? 

SPECIAL ATTENTION TO CHRIS SCOTT AND HORSE LONGMIRE (BOTH HAVE BEEN GOOD, NOT GREAT, COACHES), BUT NOT EXCLUDING DAMIEN HARDWICK AND LUKE BEVERIDGE (IF THEY DON’T HAVE FURTHER ULTIMATE SUCCESS).

THE ANSWERS SEEM TO BE 10 YEARS AT LEAST OF GOOD FOOTBALL BUT ALWAYS ABOUT 4 KICKS SHORT OF ANOTHER PREMIERSHIP.

Julian Russo: I think a flag gives 3 years, Chris Scott has had the best record since taking over, but only has one flag that many say he was gifted. Does that make him a good coach? I don’t necessarily think so, he’s a good regular season coach but he keeps getting exposed in finals.

Matthew Passmore: I think a flag should necessarily guarantee longevity for a coach. If Beveridge doesn’t make the finals this year, or at least just miss out, they should be asking questions of the Dogs. Chris Scott has a better winning record than Beveridge, so who’s the better coach and who just had the better timing or more luck in September?

Jason Irvine: I think for as long as the premiership window is still open. The Dogs could be suggesting that it’s still open for them in the coming years and Beveridge succeeding in 2016, it’s probably just slightly ajar. Sydney are only just starting to slide way down, and Geelong are good without being great. I think Sydney could find a new coach but the board at the Cattery probably still think Scott is their man.

HB Meyers: It gives you five years without scrutiny. In that period you have the variables – a couple of years honeymoon (Beveridge), you have a perennial contender falling over when it counts (Chris Scott) or you have someone who gets the team to perform above its station (Longmire).

Sam Marcolin: I think it depends on the club really. I don’t think the Dogs would ever sack Beveridge in spite of their lacklustre form since the flag. Who was the last premiership coach to be sacked though? Malthouse? That doesn’t really count though, given they won a flag during the succession period. Before that you have to go back to Mark Williams, who was given six years after winning the flag. That might be your answer.

Trent Shields: I think it might depend on which club it is. Beveridge may have his job for life after breaking a drought that stretched over 60 years. Other more successful clubs are probably less romantic. Chris Scott is now into an eighth season since his sole triumph – I don’t see the Cats moving on him anytime soon, even if that trend continues.

SHANE MARKS: ARE ESSENDON BETTER OFF GETTING WHAT THEY CAN FOR JOE DANIHER OR STAYING THE COURSE AND HOPING HE GETS HIS BODY RIGHT?

Julian Russo: It’s best to see what they can get for him, but who would want to give up anything of value for breadsticks?

Matthew Passmore: Given the right price, all players- even the champions- should be considered for trade. Players move to make their situation better, so it makes sense to allow clubs to move player on if it benefits their situation. The question is, who will pay what Essendon want for a talented but injury prone tall forward? For the right price, they should certainly move him on.

Jason Irvine: Depends if Essendon reckon they can live without him. He’s a star when he’s up and about and if the meeting with Harley was a conversation about a trade, there are other factors like an ageing and injury-prone Buddy to contend with. Sydney could give up someone like Ronke and more and I think it’d be fair.

HB Meyers: We’re pretty quick to jump off players now, aren’t we? Two years ago he was the toast of the town and the next big thing. Now, some supporters are happy to see the back of him? Pretty harsh. Sticking with him, supporting him and bringing him back when he’s ready – not rushing him – sends a message to the other players that if they fall over, the team will support them. It builds a great culture. Essendon would not be entertaining any approaches for him if they were wise.

Sam Marcolin: I reckon they’re better off sticking with him. His inability to get his body right over recent years has hurt the Dons, no doubt, but he kicked 60+ goals just two years ago. There aren’t many forwards in the modern game capable of that, and players of that talent don’t come around too often. Plus, not sure Essendon can afford to lose a key forward like that with not a huge amount of depth in the big man department.

Trent Shields: Hmmm, I’m not sure even though I’ve pondered this myself. Joe has the capacity to be one of the premier players in the comp, but he’ll be coming up to 26 next season when he next plays and he’s had one season above good to date. I’ve got no doubt clubs would pay above the fair price for him in a trade situation, so perhaps with the Bombers still a long way from a flag now is the time to cash in?

DAVID GORNALL: RULE CHANGES. INSTEAD OF NOMINATING TWO RUCKS FROM EACH TEAM CHANGE THE RULE TO ONE PLAYER FROM OPPOSING TEAMS ARE ALLOWED TO RUCK. IF A THIRD JOINS FREE KICK AWARDED. AND BRING BACK A 15M OR 25M FOR MINOR INCIDENTS RATHER THAN 50M. THOUGHTS?

Julian Russo: I’m lost. Only one player nominates already. A 15m or 25m penalty would be good, but it would be another rule up to interpretation and I think it would do more harm than good.

Matthew Passmore: Yeah, I’m lost as well sorry. But i do like 25m penalties for minor infractions.

Jason Irvine: Trying to make sense here. Only one ruck from each team can nominate, not two. But what you’re saying is don’t have anyone nominate and instead one player from each team goes up. If a third does from either team, it’s a free kick to the opposition. I don’t think it works cause then you could be blocking the ruckman from contesting which is a free in itself. The nomination works for this instance. And no minor penalties, 50m is harsh enough that players shouldn’t do anything that entice one.

Nick Sluggett: 100% agree with the ruck suggestion. Have thought it myself and it is a common sense approach. I am not a fan of bringing in the lesser penalties. I understand it can be frustrating but it was changed as players were committing “professional” frees disguised as goofs. Having it as a 50m penalty deters any sort of gamesmanship form players.

HB Meyers: Love the ruck idea – forces teams to get organised and get organised quickly. If they could combine that and get the ball up happening immediately, I think we have a big winner. And the penalties should be staggered. It’s amazing that we have the same penalty for almost decapitating someone after a mark is taken as we do for stepping over a mark on the ground. Still, imagine the vitriol for umpires who award 50m when there was a similar infraction that was awarded 25m?

Sam Marcolin: The ruck idea is an interesting one. I think removing the nomination makes a lot of sense, but it could lead to complications if a team, say Geelong, sent Rhys Stanley and Mark Blicavs to a stoppage without the opposition knowing which of them is going to compete in the ruck. The smaller penalty prospect probably sounds better in theory than in practice. Umpiring is already difficult; I’m not sure we want more room for interpretation.

Trent Shields: Is there a percentage higher than 100% that I can agree with this statement? One of the worst decisions of all time from head office/rules committee. It’s very simple, only one player can contest the bounce or ball up/throw in from each team, as soon as another appears it’s a free kick.

DANIEL JON KERSHAW: SHOULD ALL TEAMS WEAR SUPER HERO INSPIRED KITS GUERNSEYS WHEN PLAYING AT MARVEL?

Julian Russo: I loved the idea of the Doggies one but hated the outcome. I’d love to see it more, it’d be a good marketing strategy.

Matthew Passmore: It was fun, but too much of a good thing becomes tacky.

Jason Irvine: Not every time a team plays at Marvel. The Dogs in a one-off is okay. If you wanted this idea, maybe a themed round like the A-League and Star Wars, but it’s all very tacky and cringey.

Nick Sluggett: I really liked the Bulldogs jumper earlier this year. I thinks it’s a great idea that each team could have a single fixture (at Marvel) where they wear a superhero style of jersey. You could spread them over a season. I can just hear Gerard Healy welcoming everyone to the broadcast of Carlton Vs West Coast at Marvel Stadium “and of course this match is West Coast’s superhero fixture, so they’ll be wearing their doctor strange inspired jumpers”.

HB Meyers: If it makes a bit of money, why not? It’s not as though they don’t forego tradition for a variety of reasons, anyway. How long did Indigenous Round run for this season? Teams were wearing their Indigenous guernseys for weeks after the actual round.

Sam Marcolin: Yes, absolutely, just as all teams should wear retro jumpers when playing in Geelong. Chuck a Tony Stark-style ark reactor on the Gold Coast jumper. Have Essendon’s red clash jumper with Spider-Man style webbing. I love the idea.

Trent Shields: I’ve been a little disappointed by the lack of engagement from Marvel with the general public at games. Much more can be done to maximise their investment. And I’m not sure if it actually needs to relate to the players or the game itself.

CHRIS GLOVER: HOW COME IF YOUR RUNNING WITH THE BALL AND GET TACKLED YOU HAVE A SPLIT SECOND TO GET RID OF THE BALL OR IT’S HOLDING THE BALL BUT YOU CAN STAND IN A TACKLE BOTH ARMS FREE GET SPUN 360 OR MORE AND IT’S NOT HOLDING THE BALL … IN MY OPINION IF YOU PAID HOLDING THE BALL IT WOULD ELIMINATE A LOT OF THE SO CALLED SLING OR DANGEROUS TACKLES.

Julian Russo: Prior opportunity!

Matthew Passmore: You need to give players prior opportunity to get rid of the ball, otherwise no one will want to be the first to the ball. I think, though, they need to be more consistent on how much opportunity that is. If you have two arms free, you can handball it, so that should be your opportunity.

Jason Irvine: Depends if you can get the ball away easily. But when your opponent has you wrapped up and is spinning you around, you’re not really in control. The safest option is a ball up otherwise it could be a turnover. There’s no prior opportunity in that example.

Nick Sluggett: It’s a simple case of having a prior opportunity to correctly dispose of the ball. I am also a big believer in effective tackles and giving the player the most opportunity to dispose of the footy. If I wrapped my arms around Patrick Cripps waist and he just kept walking unimpeded, with me hanging off him, that should not be holding the ball, as my tackles isn’t effective. If a player is only hanging-on with the tackle then he doesn’t have the right to call for holding the ball as the other player isn’t impeded and should be given every opportunity to effectively dispose of the ball. But that is only relevant to those cases. SLing tackles are different and are when the tackler has control over the player with the ball and dumps/slings them into the ground. They absolutely should be outlawed as they are generally done against a player unable to protect themselves. We must always protect the player with the footy first, as that is the aim of the game. To have the ball!

HB Meyers: Great question. I’ve always thought that if you get spun 360 degrees it should be holding the ball. I love the run-down tackles, but seeing players spinning around like they’re engaged in a dance… then dishing off annoys the shit out of me.

Sam Marcolin: I get where you’re coming from, but spinning a player around doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve been sufficiently tackled. The thing that shits me more than anything is the ball being ‘knocked out in the tackle’. If we start pinging players for that, that would ease congestion massively in my opinion.

CLINT FUDGE: HAVING HEARD/READ OF EDDIE MCGUIRE’S IDEAS REGARDING MASSIVE CHANGES TO THE UMPIRING STRUCTURES – DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS OR INPUT?

Jason Irvine: I’ve actually just read about his comments now for the purpose of this question cause I don’t normally take note of a lot of McGuire’s thoughts. What he said isn’t too drastic, in parts. I like the idea that boundary umpires can call free kicks, or at least blow their whistle and talk to the field umpire. Boundary umpires would have to know the complete rules too to award frees. Goal umpires would be rigid if they can’t move around the full goalline and could get in the way. Can you imagine two goal umpires going to look at a ball that’s close to the goalpost and falling into each other? Hilarious, but frustrating. That’s the thing, umpires can get in the way already and by having more I umpires, more chances of it happening. It would be messy cause there’s still no guarantee you’ll get the right call, nor one the crowd will agree with still. Each umpire is a part of the 6-6-6 setup already so that appeal doesn’t make sense.

HB Meyers: I don’t mind new ideas, but if I’m not mistaken (if I am, please tell me) Eddie was proposing a system akin to the NFL, wasn’t he? Can we afford to have our game stop/start like their version of football? With the breaks after plays, it works for them, but in our sport, where momentum, playing on, and the advantage rule are such huge parts of the game, not sure we need eight people throwing red flags on the field because they may have seen something isn’t the answer. I’d like two-three years with no rule changes, allowing the umpires and players to adjust properly.

Sam Marcolin: I understand where Eddie is coming from, in that if you were going to begin the AFL anew tomorrow that’s the way you’d structure the umpiring department. However, with fans already confused by umpiring, I don’t think adding more competing voices on the field will clear anything up. We already see umpires further from the ball overrule the officiating umpire, and allowing more umpires to make decisions could very easily increase that.

Trent Shields: I think it’s a good conversation to have, but I don’t agree with his suggestions per se. I wrote in last week’s Q&A about changes to the way umpires interpret rules, and I still think that’s the best way to resolve the same issue.

STELLA STANLEY: WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE AMOUNT OF COVERAGE AFLW GETS? NOT ENOUGH? TOO MUCH? JUST RIGHT?

AND WHAT ABOUT THE SCHEDULING OF THE GAMES? WHERE CAN THE AFL BE BETTER HERE?

Julian Russo: Too much, I don’t think anyone watches it other than because it’s “footy in the summer”, I just don’t understand why it gets treated like a big market sport, it’s not. If they were to take it away, I doubt many would care. I don’t know about the scheduling of games, I don’t pay any attention to it. The AFL could be better by keeping it away from the AFL, let it develop a fan base and let the players improve, then give us a spectacle worth going to see.

Matthew Passmore:  I have really enjoyed the AFLW games i’ve been to and seen on TV. The best way to improve the competition is to allow it to grow and the best way to do that is to make it accessible. I think the coverage at the moment is fine, but I look forward to it increasing as the quality does.

I do think they should schedule it during the season, though, and have a few games as curtain raisers- and have the Grand final during the mid-season or pre- finals bye.

Jason Irvine: I think what’s made other competitions like the WBBL successful is because they had created the idea of playing most games as a double-header whether that’s before or after the men’s game. The AFLW too quickly wanted people to support the game from the start without getting people hyped about VFLW etc beforehand. It was suddenly ‘here’s a product, take it in’. There are still a lot of things to look at with AFLW including the matter of expansion, which is happening rapidly and not in a good way. I will support the competition and head to games here and there cause it involves “my team” cause the scheduling works being outside of other sports and commitments. It gets plenty of coverage and more likely for the wrong reasons (think your normal women’s sport arguments) and that’s good because the trend has died down from that very first AFLW game, but there’s lost focus on why the competition is important and who has fought and for what to get where we are today.

Nick Sluggett: I like the AFLW. I think the level of coverage is right. I believe its improvement has been shown to be significant in its formative years. I do agree with the idea put forward by Criag Hutchison thought that puts it into a more traditional timeslot and allow for more overlap between the mens and womens competitions. The benefits far outweigh the negatives. Double header matches, better value for memberships, more crossover of players, the women will spend a longer time around the club. The competition potentially needs to cease expanding to maintain its current level but i understand the AFL wanting every supporter to have someone to barrack for ASAP in order to drive interest. I know mine picked up when my team received a licence.

HB Meyers: I think it’s about right at the moment, and I never get the bad-mouthing of it. If you don’t like it, don’t watch. I happen to enjoy it, and as such, we’ll be covering it at The Mongrel Punt. You know what – we lost a few people last off-season who didn’t want to see AFLW stuff in their news feed. Seriously…. grow up. I would probably like to see the women’s league get a longer season, not have to play in 40 degree heat, and still get standalone coverage, but that becomes a problem because even now the season overlaps with the pre-season JLT series and I have to divide my time between them. Would love to hear some solutions from readers – will be better than what I come up with, I’m sure, given the women play in the VFLW and other state leagues in the off-season.

Sam Marcolin: I think the AFLW has been massively positive, and more coverage can only be a good thing. The scheduling could be done a lot better, and I worry they may have expanded far too greatly far too quickly, although time is the only thing that will tell on that. Giving women heroes to look up to is a good thing, and having them on TV more often and more accessibly is an enormous step in terms of equal representation.

Trent Shields: I think they’ve got the amount of coverage pretty much right at present, although the AFLX competing with the AFLW finals was an abomination. Hopefully that wrong has been righted and they have some clear space to showcase the best of the best from 2020. As the standard continues to improve, the interest will organically grow and coverage will follow.

NICHOLAS COLE: WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THESE “DEFENCE FIRST” COACHES. THIS GAME PLAN STARTED WITH ROOS AND WAS TAKEN UP BY LONGMIRE AND ROSS LYON – EXEMPLIFIED BY LOW SCORING, BARELY FUNCTIONING FORWARD LINES AND BORING, CONGESTED FOOTY. 

THIS GAME PLAN HAS ALSO NOT FAVOURED BUDDY, THE BEST FORWARD IN A GENERATION PLAYING FOR A DEFENCE FIRST COACH

Julian Russo: Sports have evolved to be a numbers game, statistics win games and AFL is the most stat heavy sport in the world. Stats show that in the modern game, matches are won off the back of counter attacks and intercept marks, so coaches focus on getting turnovers on the defensive 50 and counter attacking. When both teams focus on that, the game turns into long kicks down the line until a team can counter attack and a vicious cycle begins.

Matthew Passmore: The old way of coaching is that it doesn’t matter how many goals the other team kicks, as long as we kick more, which is why footy was so high scoring in the past. Coaches like Paul Roos, Gerard Neesham, Dennis Pagan and others all decided that this was stupid and the best way to win is the more soccer style, where you win by possessing the ball and limiting the scoring opportunity of the other players. This has become vogue, and even the more attacking sides like Richmond, West Coast, and Hawthorn, have strategies that are based around defense. The new saying is, “Forwards win memberships but defenders win premierships.” whether or not you agree, that’s the style and we won’t go back.

For the record, if done properly, it doesn’t need to be boring at all.

Jason Irvine: Defence goes a long way and a team’s setup is vital to winning games of footy. Teams that can invite pressure in their defensive end are delights to watch because it holds up and the rest of the ground can do their best to counter. You’d have to make sure that you have good players to stand up to the opposition forwards and that the faith in your forwards is high. For Buddy, I think the Swans are just putting it to other players and either way, the midfield isn’t delivering it well inside 50.

HB Meyers: We’ve gone so far, we’re never coming back. The days of free-running footy are now consigned to what you remember and archival footage. I don’t like it at all, and I pine for the days of a full forward getting one-out and destroying a game as well. It’s not going to happen often. You’ll get the occasional game where both teams go on the attack, but as soon as one gains ascendancy, the other puts the brakes on. Is that Roos, Lyon or Longmire’s fault? Nah, they’re just coaching to win, and regardless of what the AFL does to open the game up, as long as coaches are wanting to shut it down, it’ll be shut down.

Sam Marcolin: Coaches will do whatever they need to do to win games. As it currently stands, the best way to win games is to not let the opposition score heavily. It’s a lot easier for the coaching staff to control games which are dour and slow, rather than fast paced, and no senior coach will ever willingly cede control. I guess the question is how many goals would Buddy have kicked in the ‘80’s, and how many would Ablett, Dunstall and Lockett kick now?

Trent Shields: I don’t think Roos et al invented the defensive mindset of coaching, Wallace certainly employed it at times in his Bulldogs era, and WC under Malthouse built much of their game plan around defence. The Hawks of the 80s were rock solid defensively, they just happened to possess an incredibly talented group of offensive threats as well. A coach will always employ the best strategy at his/her disposal to win games of football (or minimise losses) based on the players on their list. Occasionally that will mean a genuine game breaker will be stifled, but it’s the sum of their parts, not a lone superstar that dictates a coach’s strategy. Alistair Clarkson is hailed as the greatest coach of the modern era, in 2019 Clarkson’s Hawks are averaging just 71.7 points per game, down on the previous lowest during his reign of 81 in 2006. For comparison in the premiership year of 2008 they averaged 109, in 2012 – 117, and over 107 through the 3-peat years. A coach will do what’s best for their group of players.

FRED STURZAKER: IS RICHMOND AS GOOD AS THE MEDIA MAKE THEM OUT TO BE, OR WILL THEY GET FOUND OUT IN A FORTNIGHT?

Julian Russo: I can tell that you’re an Eagles fan! I think that this game could be a Grand Final preview, clearly the two best sides in the comp at the moment.

Matthew Passmore: Yeah, they’re good. Very good. Certainly a chance for the flag, but don’t worry- the Eagles are too!

Jason Irvine: They’re scary good! One of the best sides I’ve seen. They have a great core in each section of the ground and their leaders step up when they need to. Martin is back to his best, Grimes is mounting for AA in place of Rance, Lynch is the best forward at the moment and their underrated players are flourishing. They know how to pounce on opposition and can transition quickly which will be a nightmare for any side.

Nick Sluggett: As much as it hurts to say, Richmond are the in-form team in the competition. Whether they retain that mantle is yet to be seen, but they are definitely as good as the media thinks. There are three standout teams at the top, but hopefully the Cats can take it back to four.

HB Meyers: Oh mate, they’re good, and if it rains, they’re better. But as we learnt last year (painfully for some) it only takes one off day to unravel premiership dreams. The Tigers were outstanding all season and fell apart one September day at the MCG. There are no guarantees it won’t happen again, but I reckon we’re heading toward a Tigers v  Eagles showdown at some point, and the great thing is, we get a Round 22 preview!

Sam Marcolin: Richmond are good, don’t get me wrong, but the propensity of some so-called experts to have declared the premiership race over already is frankly disrespectful to the other contenders, not to mention fairly ignorant of the facts. Premierships aren’t won in July or August, just like they aren’t won in April and May, and Richmond were certainly in much better shape heading into September last year than they are this year. I see a lot of parallels with Sydney in 2017, who spent a lot of their fuel just to get into the top eight. Their game against West Coast will be fascinating, and the fact it’s hidden in the early Sunday slot rather than a marquee Friday or Saturday night is a big argument in favour of a floating fixture for the final month of the year, rather than just the last round.

Trent Shields: Richmond’s last three months in 2017 were stunning, and as part of the media throng we all probably missed the warning signs late last year that things were not going as well as we’d been conditioned to. I think it’s taken most of the year, but most good judges have now again regained their faith that the Tigers best has them better equipped than anyone else (apologies WCE) to claim the cup. Teams must evolve to improve, the inclusion of Lynch, Stack, Bolton, Chol have provided the necessary boost to a potentially complacent Tiger outfit.

PAUL DEAN: ARE THE LIONS AT THE START OF A DYNASTY?

Julian Russo: I bloody hope so! I’m a big fan of the Lions and what they’re building. I think that they’re one or two young guns away from being set up for the next decade.

Matthew Passmore: I think the competition is becoming so even that dynasties such as Hawthorn’s, Geelong’s, and Brisbane’s of the past are going to become much less frequent. So no. Not because they don’t have the talent but because finals are getting increasingly harder to win.

Jason Irvine: It’s exciting times ahead for the Lions but as we’ve seen in previous years and over the last decade, any team can win a flag. Brisbane are very good and young so they have that in their favour and while I’d love to see them win a flag as much as my own team, they will impress in the coming years and should have a couple of flags to show for it.

Nick Sluggett: Dynasty is a big word to be throwing around before they have even played a final. Every club who wins a premiership has fans claiming a dynasty. Once a club has won two flags within a short time frame you can start thinking on that level. For now just enjoy the quality of footy.

HB Meyers: They’ve got to win something first. What I found interesting is that Luke Hodge flagged playing another season… he smells a flag in the air. The bloke knows what they smell like – he’s been around for plenty, and in this Brisbane group, he knows they’re capable. If not this year, then next – and he plans to be part of it. That said, you’ve gotta get the first before you have a dynasty. No one called St Kilda’s run from 2009-10 the start of a dynasty because they had bugger all to show for it.

Sam Marcolin: I mean they could be. Who’s to say? I guess we’ll see come September, but in fairness you would have thought the Dees would have been competitive after their performance in the finals last year and look where they are now.

Trent Shields: Dynasty is a bit premature, isn’t it? And I’m a firm believer! Zero finals appearances in the last decade and only five victories last year suggest the Lions are now on the right track, but apart from the incomparable Hawks & Lions three-peaters only Adelaide have won back-to-back flags in 30 years! I’ll be as rapt for the group and their fans as anyone if they can salute in 2019, but it’s an incredible effort to get one, let alone repeat.

JANE MITCHELL: WHY DO SOME GAMES NOT GET TELECAST LIVE TO FREE TO AIR. WHEN THE EAGLES AND DOCKERS PLAY INTERSTATE, THE GAMES ARE OFTEN DELAYED. NOT ALL OF US CAN AFFORD FOXTEL!!!

Julian Russo: Licensing!!! It sucks, but unfortunately, money makes the world go round. If you don’t want to get Foxtel, Kayo is $25 a month and you can share with a friend, so $12.50 a month and you can watch any game, no matter who’s playing or where.

Matthew Passmore: Because of money. Each interstate team has three delayed games on free to air. Channel seven tried their best to make them the games of lesser interest, but that’s the deal. Don’t like it – buy it.

Jason Irvine: Licensing sucks, doesn’t it? Though there are plenty of avenues to get around this. Streaming services are good, and nothing can beat going to a pub and cheering your team on there with other (hopefully) fellow fans. Channel Seven should’ve played hard ball a bit more, but Foxtel have more money, more channels, and more money.

HB Meyers: There’s a reason the TV rights deals are so big. What I’d like to see is a different approach to the next deal, where stations can bid for individual games. How good would that be. On one night you could have a game on Ch7, another on Ten, and then one on Foxtel. Win, win, win.

Sam Marcolin: Yep, it’s the rights deal. Free to air TV will never be able to compete with Foxtel, especially with the government, and the opposition in fairness, in Rupert Murdoch’s pocket.

Trent Shields: I’ve always had Foxtel, that’s a personal decision that I’ve made as we all do in prioritising. That said, I also quite enjoy popping down to the local to watch games from time to time. The AFL app is free if your phone contract is through them too, there are more options than ever before to see your team play. As far as games being selected to show on FTA or PPV, I fully understand each of the broadcasters want the games with the highest viewership.

PETER HILL: DO YOU THINK NATHAN BUCKLEY SHOULD BE GIVEN ANOTHER EXTENSION?

Julian Russo: He has the next two years to make another Grand Final, if he does, I think an extension will be guaranteed. I think the Pies would have to miss the 8 or go out in the first week of finals in the next two years for them to look elsewhere.

Matthew Passmore: With two years to go on his contract, I don’t think it’s worth considering an extension at this stage. He has, and is, certainly doing enough as a coach, but you don’t want to rush to extend his contract just to find out he isn’t the right guy for the job. Wait until his final year- his final few games even- and then have the conversation.

Jason Irvine: Let’s see how he can react to the injury crisis first. If the Pies can get everyone fit next year and they are up the ladder, you can talk about it but it’s too early considering he signed back in February.

Nick Sluggett: Yes. Unless the wheels completely fall off Buckley should be safe.

HB Meyers: What’s the rush? We’re always in such a rush. Will he be snapped up by someone else, you think? I’d be waiting, as Melbourne should have before signing on for an additional three years of Simon Goodwin. Sometimes it’s just nice to allow things to play out a little.

Sam Marcolin: I like Buckley as a coach, and I think the players do too. I still wouldn’t be in a rush to re-sign him. Let’s not forget the wolves were very much at the door after two rounds last year, in which they’d lost both games. I’d like to see him with a full list next year to see what kind of damage his Pies can do without the constant hampering injury has provided this year.

Trent Shields: Desperately unlucky not to be a premiership coach last year, almost everything has gone wrong this year. He is signed until 2021 and I can’t imagine he’d be looking to leave, nor would Collingwood want to move him on. Absolutely no hurry to do anything right now, I believe he is the right man for the job, let’s see what next year brings.

MICHAEL BARBARO: FIXTURE ISSUES. EG SHOULD ALL TEAMS PLAY EACH OTHER ONCE BEFORE ANY DOUBLE UPS?

IS 5 DOUBLE UPS THE RIGHT AMOUNT? SHOULD IT BE ONLY 3 FOR EXAMPLE FOR A 20 GAME SEASON?

FLOATING FINAL ROUND YAY OR NAY? SHOULD LAST TWO ROUNDS BE FLOATING? OR NONE?

Matthew Passmore: The way the fixture is supposed to work is that everyone plays everyone once and then the final five games are made up against teams who finished in the same third of the ladder during the previous year. However, because of marquee games such as Derbies, this rarely actually happens and those marquee games can favour a good side and make life harder for a poor side. I reckon we need to do away with them completely, and focus on making the fixture as fair and equal as possible; a floating fixture is probably the best way- but it does come with a fair chunk of logistical problems. The easiest way to get a fair fixture and (as a bonus) to get a Tasmanian and possible NT team? Twenty sides over two divisions where everyone plays everyone twice- English soccer style. But that will never win public appeal.

Jason Irvine: The idea of a floating fixture has many logistical problems from travel to venues and in between. The way of “equalisation” appears to be going right for some teams including Brisbane and Melbourne, in a good and bad way for those teams specifically. Derbies and marquee games will attract the highest interest and crowds so those will naturally get a greater chance of being fixture double-ups. I’m sort of in the middle of all of this in that 17 is too short and 34 is too long. I really don’t understand how you can go 22 weeks without playing a team once, that part of the fixturing baffles me.

Nick Sluggett: I don’t mind the fixture as it currently is. The AFL is not going to stray from tis 22 game season for while. Hopefully the addition of a new Tassie team and one other somewhere around 2025-2030 should assist with the double-up issue. That would be 20 teams in the comp and only three double-ups. The AFL may even shorten the season by a couple rounds to accommodate a longer finals series, as they would likely expand it to include more teams so that they all stay “live” for longer. How about that, the way to solve our fixture issues is to add more teams. I can see ol’ Gil eyes lighting up with dollar signs. Also a fan of the floating fixture for the last round. Probably don’t need it for the last two rounds.

HB Meyers: We’re all over the place at times. We have some sides who have played twice and others who have not yet faced each other. It’s a bit of a clusterfuck. I reckon compiling a fixture would be a thankless job, but I’ve always thought if you’re getting paid, thanks aren’t necessary. I’m guessing people at the AFL are getting paid – do it properly. I like the idea of the floating rounds toward the end of the season, but it really could be looked at as though the AFL were manipulating the season to the end it prefers.

Sam Marcolin: I don’t necessarily mind whether teams play other sides twice before they play others once as much as I mind the inequities of the fixture. I maintain that a 17 round home and away season is the fairest way to do things, with a 34 round season completely out of the question at this stage. If you then broke the ladder up into three conferences you could get the floating fixture for the final third of the season while also ensuring we don’t get too many dead rubber games. The problem, of course, is what to do with the teams who finish in the bottom six. They could play for draft picks? I’m not sure, but in any event I do like the idea of a floating fixture at the end of the year rather than just the last week.

Trent Shields: By far the best fixturing was when there were 12 teams, and each side played each other home & away. Also the final 5 is by far the best finals system. But in this day and age of saturation coverage, over 1mil members and extraordinary television rights dollars, we’re never going back. I honestly think the only solution is to employ conferences, if there are three conferences of six teams you could have a fixture where you play the other five teams in your conference (can be structured to maximise traditional rivals/local derbies) twice, both home & away. Then you play each of the other conference teams once (12 sides). This retains a 22-match season and the games against other conferences would be on a strictly rolling home & away basis, so a team you play at home this year, you play away next year.

From an interest and profit maximisation perspective a floating fixture makes a lot of sense, but would need to be expanded past the final two rounds. Consider how many Friday night fizzers we’ve endured over the past five years. However, the alternate view is that it can be unfair to supporters who plan trips well in advance to coincide with their teams playing interstate.