Isaac Heeney flies for a mark over Steele Sidebottom. Picture: Getty Images
Isaac Heeney flies for a mark over Steele Sidebottom. Picture: Getty Images

Origin key to making AFLX a hit

If AFLX is to survive or even thrive, it needs to be ignited by the spirit of Teddy Whitten.

A month of rabid AFL promotion for this peculiar concept resulted in a game that was at best pleasantly diverting and at worst glorified circle work.

The players had a ball, the game was thankfully injury-free and Jack Riewoldt's last-minute snapped goal to steal the title for the Rampage ensured the night went down to the wire.

Riewoldt had been one of the game's chief spruikers and fittingly provided its biggest moments, his ice-cool 20-point snap on a tight angle capping a perfect night for the Tigers star.

In the brief moments when players left it all out there - such as when Flyers star Marcus Bontempelli stole the preliminary final after a frenetic final few minutes - you could see a dash of potential.

But on a night where the indigenous side quickly faded from contention, no one really cared which team won any individual game - or took home the trophy at night's end.

Indigenous stars Tim Kelly and Cameron Ellis-Yolmen celebrate a goal. Picture: AAP
Indigenous stars Tim Kelly and Cameron Ellis-Yolmen celebrate a goal. Picture: AAP

The most critical element of going to a sporting event - no matter the stakes - is that you want to barrack for someone to win.

The late, great Whitten would have turned this concept into a state-of-origin contest and whipped it into a frenzy of state-versus-state passion.

The AFL's view is that the kids watching weren't around for those days of "Kick a Vic" and those famous Football Park epics.

At times on Friday night as Scott Pendlebury, Nathan Fyfe and Marcus Bontempelli waxed the footy it seemed there was something to build on from this best-against-best concept.

So if this concept is to grow, turn it into four teams - Victoria, the indigenous side, South Australia, West Australia - and add a dash of tribalism.

The Grumpy Old Man brigade would have found plenty to moan about last night, because what is life for them if they can't get outraged about basically anything?

Tom Hawkins has a shot for goal in front of a crowd of 23,828 at Marvel Stadium. Picture: AAP
Tom Hawkins has a shot for goal in front of a crowd of 23,828 at Marvel Stadium. Picture: AAP

There were flashing goalposts and virtual advertising on the ground, but the first game fell so flat the AFL quickly seemed to rustle up an on-ground commentator from nowhere.

And the widely mocked game-changer rule proved so popular that the AFL literally made up its rules as it went by -enacting it for the entire second half of the grand final.

The players ripping off the NBA's megastars as they strutted into the change-rooms in fancy duds delivered mixed returns.

Alex Rance in a white double-breasted suit and skateboard looked like a cross between Pablo Escobar and Marty McFly on his hoverboard.

Dylan Shiel looked about to float away in an extreme puffer jacket, Tom Rockliff resembled a tricked-up construction worker.

Patrick Dangerfield and his teammates are animated after winning rock-paper-scissors to decide the choice of ends. Picture: Getty Images
Patrick Dangerfield and his teammates are animated after winning rock-paper-scissors to decide the choice of ends. Picture: Getty Images

But their determination to have some fun had Patrick Cripps nailing an NFL-style field goal and the players genuinely seemed to enjoy the rock-paper-scissor alternative to the coin toss.

The crowd of 23,828? 

Close to irrelevant, given one mate with an AFL membership and a group of mates in town booked 30 free tickets in separate transactions.

At the entrance to Marvel Stadium another AFL member about to actually pay for tickets - perish the thought - was assaulted by an official offering them for free instead.

The haters are going to hate this concept whatever the format, but the AFL isn't stopping it anytime soon, so why not maximise its potential for those prepared to give it a chance?

News Corp Australia


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