AFL

AFL clubs supporting wildcard round

AFL clubs supporting wildcard round
Clubs have surprised AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan with their level of interest in a wildcard round.

Clubs have surprised AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan with their level of interest in a wildcard round the week before the finals.

A fixture option, debated at length during Thursday's meeting between the league and the 18 club chief executives, is to replace the round-23 bye with one or more wildcard games.

One wildcard option is games featuring seven v 10 and eight v nine on the ladder, to maximise the importance of matches leading into the finals.

McLachlan said 'about 12' options were discussed as the AFL tried to improve the lack of fairness in a fixture that featured 18 teams and 22 rounds.

'The fixture (debate) was animated - it was a really good discussion,' McLachlan said.

'I'm not sure I'm getting many wins there.

'Wildcard got a lot of discussion - there was more interest in a wildcard round leading into finals than I thought there would be.

'That had, I would say, not universal but a significant level of support ... that was the thing that was probably most surprising.'

McLachlan added no substantial fixture reform, such as the 17-5 model, was likely for next season - but there was debate on Thursday that wildcard games might be possible.

'I asked whether wildcard was possible for this year and that didn't seem to have a lot of traction,' McLachlan said.

'Broader stuff, if anything happened, it would be for 2019, but the wildcard was viewed as possible for next year.'

While the AFL is enjoying one of its best seasons, there have been long-standing calls for changes to the fixture.

'The core of (the discussion) is equity - we have a fixture that is imperfect, in the sense that there are 18 teams in the 22-round fixture,' McLachlan said.

'What you're trying to do is have more 'live' games at the back end of the season, if possible ... but equity is the key.

'It may not be possible to come up with a system that's better than where we are now, but that's why we had an hour and a half of really engaged discussion on it.'

AAP