With the AFL releasing the first 15 rounds of the 2023 AFL Fixture, it is worth having a bit of a squiz at who got the good rub.
Not in terms of opponents – things change so rapidly in the footy world that last year’s nothing-team can become a something-team very quickly, and suddenly, what initially looked like an easy win becomes a knock-down, drag-out affair.
No, what I am looking at is which teams benefit most in terms of exposure. You see, there are timeslots that give clubs unfettered access to all footy supporters. Those who love the game will always tune into a game with no other clash in competition. As such, by securing those slots in the fixture, teams give themselves ample ability – not just to get more eyes on their team – but to build fan bases and create excitement around their star players. The more often they’re seen, the more buzz around them.
Conversely, we have the opposite end of the spectrum – the Graveyard Slots.
These are the games that are sandwiched between two others, meaning that footyheads could watch two entire games, back-to-back, or skip the second half of one of those games, AND the first half of another to watch the middle game in its entirety. I don’t know about you, but I reckon those timeslots suck.
So, being the intrepid fellow that I am, I grabbed the trusty notebook and started to have a look at what the first fifteen rounds of the fixture tell us and who the AFL expect to attract the most eyes to their TV sets as the season begins.
We start with Thursday nights.
Whilst not the perfect time for footy, basically ruling out younger kids due to their next-day school commitments, the AFL seems to be sold on the idea of Thursday night footy. I don’t mind it – it stretches the round over an extra day and allows me to enjoy uninterrupted access to more games.
Which teams populate this aspect of the fixture?
There are eight Thursday night fixtures in the first 15 rounds. Of those games, Carlton and Geelong have three each. Brisbane is next best, with two.
Let’s jump to the standard bearer of the league, and the weekly game that attracts the most viewers – Friday Night Footy.
This is the place you want to be if you are looking to showcase your team. Perennially, the more appearances on a Friday night, the bigger expectation is placed on the team.
Again, it is the Blues who seem to have someone at the AFL very eager to have as many people see them every week. They have four Friday Night slots in the first 15 Rounds of the season. Brisbane follow up their second place in the Thursday Night stakes, with an equal top finish, here, as well. Interestingly, none of their four games are at the MCG, with three at the Gabba, and one at Marvel. You then have Richmond and Sydney with three apiece.
So, when we look at the two big weekly standalone slots, the Blues are making out like bandits, with seven appearances. Brisbane is next with six, then the Cats with five.
And the teams that get bugger all?
Well, that’d be you, GWS. Hell, even North gets one (Good Friday) and Gold Cast get two (even if both are viewed as secondary games, given their game against West Coast in Round Nine is in direct competition to Richmond v Geelong and their Round Five clash against Freo starts at 3.10 in WA)
Then there are the Marquee Games. The Anzac Eve/Day, Queen’s Birthday, etc…
Here is a list of teams that get the rub from these fixtures.
Melbourne have two, as do Collingwood. Then you have Hawthorn, Geelong, Richmond, and Essendon with one each.
Hmmm. notice anything about these teams?
People, when supporters of teams not based in Victoria get the shits about “Vic-Bias”, this is exactly what they’re talking about. You could argue that their local derbies/showdowns are their marquee clashes, and they are, but the AFL does not treat them as such.
Adelaide v Port Adelaide deserves a standalone time. It gets Saturday night in Round Three. It has Essendon v St Kilda in direct opposition to it.
West Coast v Freo occurs in Round Three, as well. The last game of the weekend, with the arse-end of Melbourne v Sydney overlapping it.
Sydney v GWS has a 2.10pm slot on a Saturday in Round Seven. It has direct competition, with Brisbane v Freo on at the same time.
And Brisbane v Gold Coast occurs on a Saturday evening in Round Ten… directly opposite Richmond v Essendon.
Look, I get that the fixture is not easy to put together, but if you want to grow and foster these rivalries to genuinely mean something to all footy supporters, you have to give them the attention they deserve. The SA and WA rivalries have done that without the aid of the league, but the NSW and QLD versions should be given a bit of a push-along if the AFL are wanting to create something special. Things like this build teams and team culture. It’s important, damn it. Let’s move on.
The Graveyard slot.
Some people think the Graveyard Slot is the last game of the week – I am of a different mind. I reckon the 3.20 slot on a Sunday afternoon is the one that has the casual viewers (with options like Kayo or Fox) miss it, due to having two games opposed to it, so that is the timeslot I am focusing on.
So, who gets shafted the most?
You may find it hard to believe… but it is Collingwood. They have three games on a Sunday arvo at 3.20 BUUUUT, one is part of the rushed “Magic” round, another is a clash against the Crows in Adelaide, which will likely draw a more than decent crowd, and the last is a clash with the Blues at the MCG. I think they’ll be just fine.
Carlton, Hawthorn, Sydney, and Essendon have two apiece. Given the wonderful hand Carlton were dealt with the Thursday/Friday night combination, they probably deserve t take a bit of a hit. Hawthorn and Essendon haven’t done anything to convince me they deserve anything better, whist the Swans… with just three Thursday/Friday games, I think they may have deserved a little better than two Graveyard games.
So, the big winner of fixture, at least in terms of exposure, appears to be Carlton. They have shunted the Dogs out of Good Friday Footy and taken that slot, and have been rewarded for missing the finals by being handed the spots with the most drawing power. Interesting decision…
The AFL may very well be hoping that the sleeping giant is awakening at IKON Park, because if it starts to slumber again, there will be more than a few people wondering why they are watching the Blues again with no other option that to turn off the TV.
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