For some time now, the NAB Cup has struggled to be seen as a serious competition. More prize money thrown around has not been able to get teams to see the competition as more than a chance to give the youngsters a run.
The AFL has tried many things to excite the fans, and even the clubs, to get up and not just blood their younger players in the competition, but these measures have failed to get many interested.
Over the last few seasons, there has been many people throwing around their ideas on how to improve the competition. Some have wanted the NAB Cup gone with a return of State of Origin while even an All-Star Weekend has been asked for.
One such supporter of the All-Star Weekend has been Collingwood’s Scott Pendlebury, who also tried to get premiership rings brought into the game.
The new Twenty20-style concept of shortening the game and having three teams play two games in the one night has been brought with mixed reactions. It’s hard to see this competition surviving much longer, despite being confirmed for the 2012 pre-season.
The AFL could try and revive the old Night Series concept, where from 1978 until 1986, the tournament included non-Victorian based clubs: the ten SANFL teams, the eight WAFL teams and state representative teams from Tasmania, New South Wales, the ACT and Queensland.
The games were televised midweek with some played in the pre-season and the rest played during the home and away season. Naturally, the Victorian clubs naturally dominated the series.
A revised concept could see players from AFL clubs who aren’t being selected by their AFL club play in extra sides that would make up the weaker division. The top AFL sides would compete in the top division and once they’re down to the last side in both divisions, they play off.
You could even implement an idea much like the Foxtel Cup; invite teams to play – those that are not interested can go off and do their own thing during the pre-season – and the winning team gets the cup and the money.
The popular feeling around some supporters has been to dump the NAB Cup altogether and just get the clubs to organise practice matches.
A few leagues around Australia have decided to do away with pre-season knockout cups and now just use the time to organise practice matches around the states. The NRL has a few trial games between clubs to pass the time.
The A-League also did away with their pre-season competition in favour of playing pre-season friendlies against lower league sides as well.
The AFL could use the practice matches to bring the games to regional Australia, like they do with teams that are knocked out of the NAB Cup.
Whatever happens in the upcoming pre-season, it needs to keep clubs and fans alike interested. Finding the right balance would generate a whole lot more excitement heading into the season ahead.