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Pre-season picks 'a circus'

Fremantle president Steve Harris.

Fremantle president Steve Harris. Photo: Getty Images

A radical AFL plan to introduce a ''captains' pick'' representative game on the eve of the 2014 season has been slammed as a ''circus and a sideshow'' by one club chairman, but will go ahead with the strong backing of the players' union.

Fremantle president Steve Harris, whose skipper Matthew Pavlich would select one team under one AFL proposal, with premiership captain Luke Hodge the other, described the plan as a sideshow that would ''distract momentum from the main game''.

As part of the scheme, still being finalised by the game's governing body, the revamped pre-season would include an unofficial round-robin of 18 games played in 18 days, followed by a representative game in early March with two all-star teams, potentially selected by the 2013 grand final captains.

The concept, first revealed to the 18 clubs during grand final week, has particularly riled those clubs playing in the first week of the split round-one fixture and notably the Dockers, who are expected to open the home-and-away season against Collingwood at Etihad Stadium on Friday night, March 14.

''I liken it to taking Black Caviar the week before the Melbourne Cup and running her in some manky country race meeting,'' Harris said on Tuesday.

''We are not rugby league. We don't need a representative game. We have an infinitely better game, we have better crowds and we are different in so many ways.''

The representative game, a one-year trial put together largely to appease major sponsor NAB and broadcasters Channel Seven and Fox Footy, would be scheduled at Etihad Stadium on either Friday, March 7 or Saturday, March 8. Fremantle players, should the fixture go ahead as mooted, would be

expected to travel to Melbourne to train for several days leading up to the clash and then return to Melbourne the following week to take on the Magpies in the season opener.

But Pavlich has been in talks with the AFL Players Association in recent days and won an assurance that no more than two Dockers would be selected for the game given the tight match turnaround.

Fairfax Media understands Harris made his disapproval clear well before the Dockers were aware they would be taking part in the season opener in Melbourne - during the meeting of the 18 presidents and chief executives in September, shortly before the Brownlow Medal count.

He is understood to have asked AFL chiefs to explain the rationale behind the concept, which would be televised in place of the defunct NAB Cup grand final.

The clubs were told that the AFL could penalise any selected players who withdrew from the game by standing them down from their respective club's round-one fixture.

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou confirmed the all-stars concept would be trialled in 2014 and, while still being finalised, had the support of the AFLPA, the AFL broadcasters and NAB, although, he conceded, not all of the clubs.

''The grand final captains' concept is one option, although that's not certain,'' he said. ''The details are still being finalised by [AFL executives] Simon Lethlean and Mark Evans. Our preferred option is to trial a representative game involving the best players in the competition with a maximum placed on the number of players from each club.''

It is understood no more than four players would be selected from any one team, with those teams playing in the first week of the split first-round fixture, potentially represented by a maximum of three players and the travelling Dockers a maximum of two.

Clubs will also play pre-season practice games over that weekend, reducing any imbalance concerning match preparation on representative footballers. Should Hodge and Pavlich not captain the sides, two other high-profile captains would be chosen and the selection process televised.

Premiership coach Alastair Clarkson and Fremantle's Ross Lyon are not expected to coach the trial showcase game, which has been supported by Hodge, Gary Ablett and Scott Pendlebury.

While Collingwood is expected to host the season-opener against Fremantle - the start of a tough opening run for the Magpies that includes contests against Sydney and Geelong in the first month - Gold Coast and Richmond (Metricon Stadium, Saturday night, March 15) will also take part in the first week of an unprecedented early start to the season.

The representative game follows the failed international rules series in Ireland. The injured Adam Goodes was unable to take part in the series and the other potential captain, Lance Franklin, failed to honour his commitment to the concept, flying into Ireland late for just the first Test.

Its unveiling follows Fairfax Media's revelation that the AFL will further depart from tradition to schedule up to three Sunday night games on Channel Seven next season. Two of those proposed will be blockbusters - a round-three MCG clash hosted by Essendon against Carlton, and a Collingwood-Carlton MCG game on June 29 midway through the school holiday period. A third game may see West Coast take on North Melbourne on June 1.


  • Great idea. Looking forward to this All-Star game being an annual event.

    Date and time
    October 30, 2013, 9:47AM
    • Problem is who will go and who will they barrack for?

      I think it's a good idea but they should have it on Grand Final day as a curtain raiser, not as a stand alone game. Few will attend and the game will have no context or atmosphere whatsoever.

      If this, and Carlton v Collingwood on a Sunday night in front of 25,000, is the best that the Coles Myer and Xavier boys at the AFL can come up with then the game is in trouble.

      Cathy Little
      Date and time
      October 30, 2013, 11:45AM
    • Hey Teddy, did you hear the parking under Docklands stadium is going to increase $2 a day. Given you work nearby, thought you'd like to know...

      Mr. Pound Town
      AFL Headquarters...Channel 7 Studios
      Date and time
      October 30, 2013, 1:54PM
  • If the players are happy with it, who cares what anybody else thinks.

    Date and time
    October 30, 2013, 10:04AM
    • This clearly represent the need for Demetriou to go ASAP, the man is becoming nothing more than a circus master. He has done a lot to develop AFL over many years, but this guy has of late completely lost focus and touch with what our game should be about. As a mug from the outer I am becoming more and more switched of over the farce that my game is fast becoming. If it was anyone other than Demetriou there would be widespread calls for him to go from Journo's, and the clubs themselves, in my opinion too many snouts in the trough and the rest are intimidated by the limitless power this guy wields. The Commision is weak and nothing more than a "Boys Club" enjoying the high life while Nero goes on his merry way.

      Huon Valley
      Date and time
      October 30, 2013, 10:04AM
      • What are you even talking about? Im usually the first to admit AD is useless but he has nothing to do with this....

        The players have said this is what they want......

        Absolutley clueless..

        Date and time
        October 30, 2013, 11:46AM
    • Looks like the AFL sold their soul as well as the TV rights to the broadcasters. There's no doubt whose running the show now!

      The truth is out there
      Date and time
      October 30, 2013, 10:11AM
      • I don't say this often, but Caro is 100% correct this rep side idea is a Circus and the AFL are the clowns. Worse decision ever made in almost 100 years of VFL/AFL history.

        North Melbourne
        Date and time
        October 30, 2013, 10:11AM
        • I agree. This is going to be another AFL disaster. I used to think we had the best administration in sport, but my opinion has now turned 180 degrees. I could write a 50,000 word thesis on the number of ways the AFL has stuffed up under Demetriou. They've become obsessed with the superficial, they treat their audience like idiots, are constantly tripping over their own hypocrisy and are gradually destroying the fabric of the game by treating fans as consumers rather than stakeholders. They really have no idea what makes people interested in football - oh excuse me "AFL" - anymore, they think it's kiss cam and kiddie playgrounds.

          This game urgently needs a major overhaul at the top and a major change of direction.

          Date and time
          October 30, 2013, 11:48AM
      • Well they cannot pick any Essendon players for this circus, as most of them will be rubbed out by ASADA anyway. This new stunt truly shows that the profit drive by the AFL has now made the clubs fully subservient to sponsors. Unhealthy.

        Date and time
        October 30, 2013, 10:17AM

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