AFL Fans Question Replay

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AFL Fans Question Replay
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

The recent drawn AFL Grand Final raised a flurry of discussion about the merits of the current replay system versus an alternative that would have the winner decided on the last Saturday in September.

A poll on The Age’s footy website (www.realfooty.com.au) had 14,024 respondents, with 52 percent in favour of retaining the current replay system and 48 percent choosing extra time.

I’m going to make a case for the minority.

Some argue that calls for abandoning the replay have largely been made in the heat of the moment and are irrational, but there is evidence in psychology literature to support the idea that a gut feeling is better than laborious reasoning. See Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. The instantaneous reaction often conveys an underlying affect that is truer and more meaningful than a slower, reflected-upon sentiment.

At the end of the 2010 Grand Final, the feeling of anticlimax when the siren sounded was palpable. Two teams gutsed it out for four quarters and, in the end, no one really knew how to feel. The players were prepared for either agony or ecstasy, but instead felt confused and empty.

Sure, some sports have not been able to figure out an agreeable way to settle drawn games. The penalty shoot-out in Football (Soccer) is controversial, as is the ‘super-over’ in Cricket. In both, the tie-breaker is very different in nature to the actual game. This makes many fans question the validity of the tie-breaking system, and justifiably so.

Extra time, as used in Basketball, would be the most sensible approach in the AFL, and is less controversial. Ten more minutes, with the nature of the contest unchanged, seems eminently fair. The winner would be deserved.

The result will reflect which team has greater stamina, fight and skill. It will reward the team that is better at the game overall, not just one aspect of the game.

With the current system, there is always a remote possibility of a draw, but no one prepares for that as an outcome. Just look at the chaos that ensued after the game.

The AFL hadn’t planned for it as an emergency meeting had to be convened to decide when to hold the replay. Other important events planned for the following weekend also had to make significant logistical changes.

A Grand Final entails a massive build-up. Everyone is readying themselves for a clear-cut verdict with the declaration of a winner on Saturday afternoon. So let’s settle it on that day.

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