At some point of every AFL season the industry seems to turn on itself and spend weeks discussing why the game isn't as good as it used to be and how it could be better. A consistent issue has been the length of games, with former coach Mick Malthouse one of many voices to suggest the game should be shorter. We're with him.
As it stands, the AFL product is slightly diluted by the fact there are 18 teams and not enough good players to spread around the competition. It means game-plans have been devised to shelter the lower-standard players. But if we cut the game down a bit the spectacle might improve. The best players would have more energy to go harder for longer without needing to head to the interchange bench as much for a rest.
As it stands, quarters go for 20 minutes plus time-on but because of the number of stoppages time-on often drags on and on and on. It means the AFL might be able to kill two birds with one stone: by reducing the level of congestion and number of stoppages during a game, it might also be able to shorten the contest and make it a more refined product for viewers and fans.
By cutting each quarter to 17 or 18 minutes, and then minimising the level of stoppages, we might get the game back to around 25 minutes a quarter. That would leave us at about 100 minutes across the game, which would be a cut of nearly 20 minutes on what we've seen in recent seasons. A quicker game's a good game. - Callum Twomey
From a purely physical standpoint, there's no reason whatsoever to shorten the length of the game. The players are fitter, faster and stronger than ever before and have more off-field staff with strength and conditioning and sports science to prepare them. You could argue for a decrease in the length of the season to equalise the fixture, but that's a separate argument.
The main argument for a reduction in game length seems to be the notion of an inferior product. Let's pump the brakes a bit. Two new clubs have entered in the past five years and there were always going to be teething problems while they developed and an extra 90 players came into the competition. Sure, there are two or three largely uncompetitive games each weekend that we'd all prefer to cut short, but hasn't that always been the case? The saturation of coverage has brought it into sharper focus, but there's no need for an overreaction.
With the two new clubs now somewhat settled and fewer 18-year-olds expected to play every game of the season, you can expect a return to 'normal' in the next few years. Also, don't underplay the impact of the four northern academies. Yes, a lot more players are needed to fill lists than previously, but as the academies produce players (as they did en masse this year), that will become less of an issue as the talent pool begins to draw from all eight states and territories, not just five.
Let's hold fire, let the game find its equilibrium and revisit this argument in a few years. - Michael Whiting