The season has been rampant with claims that the 2012 home and away fixture was unfair and many believe it provided specific teams with an advantage over its opponents.
This criticism is not a newly debated topic, but rather an issue that has been disputed for many years. However, this season has heightened and reignited the debate, with the footballing community echoing in unison for a change in the current system.
As the existing arrangement stands, each team plays each other once. There is no dispute with these games, but rather many people are up in arms about the five remaining rounds of the season. These games are decided at the discretion of the AFL.
The AFL affirms that within these five matches, an attempt was made to allow teams to play a range of higher and lower ranked teams (according to the previous season), but there seem to be some inconsistencies.
These variations are unclear by looking at how many times a team plays a top eight side compared to a bottom eight side due to the 8:10 ratio. However, it is more apparent if the ladder is divided into a top, middle and bottom six.
Under this system the 2012 home and away ladder would look like this:
Top six – Hawthorn, Adelaide, Sydney, Collingwood, West Coast, and Geelong.
Middle six – Fremantle, North Melbourne, St Kilda, Carlton, Essendon and Richmond.
Bottom six- Brisbane, Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, Melbourne, Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney.
Going by this theory, the teams that play opponents within the top six the most are Hawthorn and Geelong, both with nine times. Melbourne, Richmond and Adelaide play them the least, with only six times.
The middle six band seems to be relatively consistent, with most teams playing opponents in this band an average of eight times.
Within the bottom six, however, North Melbourne, Melbourne and Adelaide play opponents within this band nine times, the most compared to other opponents. Collingwood, Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide play these teams the least.
If a comparison is done between Hawthorn and Adelaide, these inconsistencies are apparent. Hawthorn played the top six teams nine times, and won five of these games. In contrast, Adelaide played the bottom six teams nine times, and won eight of these games.
This is also seen when comparing Geelong and North Melbourne. Geelong played the top six teams nine times and won five of these games. In contrast, North Melbourne played the bottom six teams nine times and won seven of these games.
This draw would have provided teams like Adelaide and North Melbourne with an advantage, as both teams could afford to lose more of the games against these top six sides than teams like Hawthorn and Geelong could.
Adelaide only won three out of its six games and North Melbourne three out of its seven games with top six teams, yet still managed to finish second and eighth respectively on the ladder.
Obviously playing ability and winning as many games as possible is what enables teams to ascend up the ladder; it isn’t just reliant upon the draw. However, inconsistencies in the fixture enable an unfair advantage.
There have been many alternative methods of planning the fixture, both with their strengths and weaknesses. As the 2012 season comes to a close and the AFL plan for the 2013 season, the AFL must reflect over the issues of the current system and create a level playing field. The speculation of teams being advantaged by the draw must end for good.