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  • Writer's pictureJohn Townsend

Wednesday WAFL: Longer season would keep hope alive

Hope is what keeps supporters coming back for more.

Hope that the new coach appointed by your club has the vision, charisma, discipline and smarts to turn around an ailing team.

Hope that the new players recruited or graduated through the ranks will execute the coach’s message.

Hope that a good home-and-away season will lead to glory on its last day.

Hope that a poor start to the season can be turned around in the latter stages.

Hope that a poor season will yet offer glimpses of a better future.

The supporters of five WAFL clubs have little more than hope to see them through the final seven rounds given that the top five is decided and only the finishing order is in dispute.

It has actually been that way since the start of June when just a game and percentage separated the same top five teams who will contest this year’s finals.

It’s tight at the top but it leaves little for the also rans.

They have only six games left, a sequence far too limited to search for, let alone find, much light at the end of the tunnel.

The WAFL season is too short.

More football is never enough which is why the WAFL should revert to the longer version that was the staple for much of the period since World War II.

Apart from the three short seasons in and after 2000 when the Sydney Olympics reverberated through sports across the country, the WAFL has mostly structured its fixtures to allow every team to play 20 or 21 games before finals.

That longer season allowed the great romantic premiership victories such as Claremont’s in 1964 or East Perth in 1978 when those teams fell into the final on the last day of the season and proceeded to fight their way to the flag.

That system ended in 2018 when the 18-match season was introduced.

The arrival of West Coast a year later allowed WAFL administrators to say that more matches were being played across the season – which is quite true – though it was little consolation to Subiaco fans relishing their team’s dominance that they could only know the meaning of success 19 times not the 20 of the unbeaten previous year.

At a time that the AFL has expanded to a 23-game season, and that will be in place for the foreseeable future, it is incongruent that a major State league is shrinking.

The WAFL already starts three weeks after the AFL, and will finish a week before it.

Yes, it would cost more to pay players and provide balls and umpires but more product provides more opportunities for clubs to sell themselves to their members and supporters.

East Fremantle hope to play at a revamped East Fremantle Oval for much of next season; how much would they like to maximise their honeymoon period with extra opportunities to drag people through the brand-new gates? That’s presuming gates will be installed at Shark Park.

Claremont, Peel and Swan Districts have a boisterous atmosphere at their home games; more matches would enhance their bar sales and interest levels.

Peter German is trying to rebuild Perth’s fortunes; Jason Salecic will look to return West Perth to the level that he achieved as a player.

An extra home game might be the weight that tips the finals scales in their favour.

The addition of a third marquee match between traditional rivals – another Fremantle derby, for example – would provide for one extra game while splitting the competition into ladder thirds would identify the other match-up between similarly-placed teams from the previous year.



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