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Bringing Back Heritage Round

Multicultural Round has bitten the dust for season 2019, meaning it joins exalted company as discarded features on the AFL draw’s cutting room floor. However, the AFL’s ever-popular Indigenous Round appears to have extended into its eighth week, with the Adelaide Crows donning their Indigenous jumper again this weekend in the Showdown.

Multicultural Round did deliver some impressive pre-game performances and undoubtedly promoted the positive message of multiculturalism – a pertinent theme in the most successful multicultural society on Earth. But crucially, Multicultural Round was not really able to cut through to the fans and did not fulfill the AFL’s fan fuelled love affair of specialised guernesy designs.

One round, however, achieved both of those things. Of course, it has since been abandoned by the AFL.

Heritage Round became a staple of the AFL fixture in 2003, with five annual rounds being held until the concept was cut at the end of 2007. The round was certainly popular amongst fans and was especially sentimental for teams such as Brisbane and Sydney who would dust off old Fitzroy and South Melbourne jumpers respectively. It was the most nostalgic round of the season and gave supporters a greater insight into the history of the game. The popularity of the past guernesys is emphasised by the number of clubs that have brought back a past jumper on a permanent basis in recent years. Carlton re-adopted its old monogram first worn in 1927 as its home guernesy in 2015, based on high demand from its supporter base. Melbourne’s reignited royal blue away jumper is a replica of its 1970s and 80s home strip that was introduced due to the commencement of colour TV. Furthermore, St Kilda’s new away guernesy design is based on its old home jumper from the late 1990s and early 2000s. We are not even going to mention the prison bars… well not yet anyway.

At the moment, one-off heritage jumpers are worn sporadically by teams throughout the whole year. Fremantle are wearing their original green and red anchor guernesy in Round 22. Why? Because Perth radio station hit92.9 is having a retro round. Surely, a legitimate AFL-wide round would be better and supersede a radio gimmick?

But the Hit Network isn’t the only media outlet to cash-in the AFL’s Heritage Round hole. Of all of Fox Footy’s promotional rounds, their version of ‘Retro Round’ has been the most successful, if for nothing else it was not Game of Thrones related. Mark Jackson’s baffling Open Mike meltdown may have also played a part in this.

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But Fremantle are not the only team sporting their own heritage rounds. Last year, Geelong had an 80s “retro” round by themselves were they donned collars and sparked calls for an AFL wide return of the real thing. While, Brisbane become Fitzroy for the day every so often, most recently in Round 12 against Carlton to plug a Hall of Fame event that was held that night.

However, Heritage Round could also solve another problem; a problem that ended its original existence. Port Adelaide’s prison bars debacle unravelled the AFL’s Heritage Round. In 2006, the AFL staged an ‘80s themed Heritage Round but Port Adelaide was barred by the AFL, more specifically by Collingwood, more specifically by Collingwood President Eddie McGuire, from wearing the prison bars. This meant Port was unable to participate. The following year, in 2007, the AFL confirmed to Port Adelaide that it had permission to wear its famous guernesy in all future Heritage Rounds, provided it was not against Collingwood.

There has never been another Heritage Round.

Bringing back Heritage Round would be fantastic for fans and provide greater uniformity to the current club retro round randomness. But it would also allow for the perfect opportunity for the smoothest possible solution to the prison bars fiasco. The Power’s wish to wear the bars for all Showdowns from 2020 onwards does not have the support of Eddie McGuire, and hence, the AFL. Regardless, Heritage Round is the far more appropriate setting for the prison bars’ return than next year’s Showdowns. If Port could wear the bars in Heritage Rounds it would stop the need of the façade of the mysterious ‘trademark agreement’ from being publicly upheld by McGuire’s Collingwood and inconsistently by Koch’s Port Adelaide. It would help Port Adelaide showcase its heritage in a more meaningful way than on a home showdown stage, and ease the member pressure on Koch’s board. It too would help the optics of AFL House by showing it does not merely bow to the words of McGuire – on all matters.

Heritage Round would again be a winner with the fans and a problem solver from one of the game’s greatest feuds.

Two birds. One round.

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