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Coaches and players will have a say on wildcard concept

Peter Ryan, AFL Media  May 19, 2017 3:55 PM

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Coaches and players will have their say on the AFL's radical 'wildcard' finals concept after club chiefs gave the idea the thumbs up at the CEOs conference on Thursday.

A decision on its introduction ahead of the 2018 season would not have to be made until October when the fixture for the following season is released.

A wildcard weekend would give four teams that finish below sixth after 22 rounds the chance to compete in a knock-out game to qualify for the last two spots in the finals.

The most likely scenario would see the team which finishes seventh play the 10th-placed team and eighth face ninth, but this hasn't been finalised.

If the concept gets the go ahead, the games would be played in the pre-finals bye. 

While it would increase the number of potential premiers after 22 rounds from eight teams to 10, it could also mean a player from a team that made the Grand Final from the wildcard round would play 27 games in a season, one more than is currently possible. 

It would also remove the week's rest ahead of finals for two of the final eight teams that exists now.

The AFL introduced the controversial pre-finals bye for 2016 to restore integrity to the final round after several clubs rested players for the final round of 2015.

In the first season of its introduction, the Western Bulldogs became the first team to win a premiership from seventh and the first team to win four finals in a row.

AFL.com.au understands many CEOs favoured a wildcard weekend above other options on the basis it would cause less disruption to the existing system than a 17-5 or 18-4 model.

The 17-5 or 18-4 fixture remains on the table in the long-term.

The main concern of club CEOs was that any change to the fixture should be predicated on improving its fairness and the AFL, while keen to ensure as few dead rubbers are played in any one season, is understood to support that principle.  

In the final four rounds of 2016, 11 games were played where both competing teams had no chance of making the final eight.

If there had remained a chance of making what would be effectively a final 10 then there would have been five games in the final four rounds where neither competing team had a slim chance of finishing 10th.  

AFL.com.au believes there was very little support among CEOs for teams that finish in the bottom six in the regular season to be given the chance to jump up and play finals or for any conference type systems to be considered.