Directions needed for league at crossroads
This is obviously tempting fate but surely no more disasters await this mostly forgettable WAFL season?
So far this year, the league has lost one grand final venue while the preferred and only replacement, which has already proved unfit for three home-and-away matches, faces a race against time to grow enough grass to host the decider.
The wooden spoon could be decided on Saturday between two candidates who have spent the recent past teetering between mediocrity and irrelevance. The lowest official crowd in league history – 275 spectators – has just been recorded while the average crowd size is the lowest since reliable records started after World War II.
The annual State match received almost no promotion, was played in front of a handful of spectators and has extinction as a clear and present danger. And one club is paying a fortune to play at a neutral venue despite its own home base suddenly gaining significant value as a last-minute alternative for games unable to be staged at the aforementioned ground.
If nothing else, the WAFL’s proposal to play the two semi-finals as a double-header at one venue – probably Joondalup if West Perth secure the minor premiership – would resolve any issue about what to do if homeless East Fremantle qualify to host the first semi.
Even media coverage has declined so dramatically that newspaper reporters no longer attend games in person while some purported interviews have mystified their supposed subjects. Whether led there by bad luck, poor management or questionable priorities and resource allocation, the WAFL is at the crossroads.
And that means its imminent direction is likely to decide whether this historic league declines into insignificance or recovers to become a robust station on the football pathway.
There are several things the league could do, or attempt to do at least, to provide an immediate reversal in its fortunes.
The livestreaming provided through the AFL platforms has created a new national and international audience, albeit one that has come at the cost of live crowds and, soon probably, free-to-air television coverage.
Clubs are taking tentative steps to use the livestream to market themselves to their members and supporters; that is an approach with considerable merit and potential.
The season starts and finishes too late so bringing the first round forward to the end of March, and fixturing the grand final to foreshadow the natural climax of the national football season – not a week after it and in cricket season – is a no-brainer.
Amalgamate Perth and West Coast
Perth stalwarts – yes, those who have witnessed just five finals campaigns in the 45 years since their last premiership and have suffered a 9000-day drought since the last final win – would be aghast at this idea.
Yet, nothing else appears to offer a better direction in the Demons’ grim search for success.
Perth need talent to be competitive. West Coast need a better environment to develop their players. Parts of both categories exist at Lathlain Park.
It won’t be easy but (likely) incoming president Adrian Barich could do a lot worse than attempt to get his two former teams to mirror the Fremantle-Peel model. It certainly beats losing.
Wednesday hero: Elijah Hewett’s class is obvious whenever he has a football in hand but his feistiness will become more apparent when he struts the national stage in the coming years.
Dual Sandover medallist Jye Bolton has already had a lively encounter with the Swan Districts teenager this year while emerging Eagle Zane Trew had a vigorous exchange with his young opponent on Saturday. Hewett, 18 and a five-game veteran, might even have instigated both confrontations. Hewett’s brazen attitude complemented a superb running goal in the first term that underlined his poise and balance. He is a player to watch.