Even without the proposed ‘Round Zero’ name, the AFL’s Opening Round is unsustainable.
Dubbed a ‘horrible, horrible’ idea by one Reddit user, the new approach to opening the AFL season could see the league lose loyal fans.
Opening Round has come under fire for more reasons than just its ‘pointless’ name, though.
The added round has sent fans into a tailspin before the fixture was even confirmed: in terms of sustainability - ‘Opening Round’ seems destined to fail.
The concept relies heavily on the NRL’s relocation to Las Vegas for their own season opener.
Whilst there may not be an exact date clash, the AFL is seemingly baiting disgruntled NRL fans who support the four travelling teams.
By opening the season in New South Wales and Queensland, the AFL is looking to increase its standing in traditionally ‘NRL’ states.
Similarly to the NRL’s venture, though, not all teams are set to be featured in ‘Round Zero’.
The clashes will feature two Preliminary Final rematches: Greater Western Sydney v Collingwood (NSW) and Brisbane v Carlton (QLD).
Both of these fixtures pose problems, with Carlton and Collingwood’s huge fan bases expected to travel interstate - despite the fact that both teams’ supporters could easily, and usually do, pack out the MCG.
The Gabba and Manuka Oval have limited capacity in comparison - meaning not only will dedicated fans miss out if they're unable to travel, but they may not even be able to purchase a seat.
The other games look set to feature Gold Coast and Richmond (QLD) - dubbed the ‘Dimma’ Cup - whilst Sydney will face Melbourne (NSW) in the ‘Grundy’ Cup.
This looks set to be an exciting fixture, but the question of the concept’s sustainability once again rises - will these matchups be permanent?
The triviality of the ‘Dimma’ and ‘Grundy’ Cups will die out, and what if GWS, Sydney or Brisbane fail to return to the finals series in 2024? Will the league still be willing to ship up their two most profitable teams in Carlton and Collingwood, as well as other attendance-magnets in Richmond and Melbourne?
Whilst many AFL fans are already fed up with aspects of the game - including tribunal inconsistencies, inadequate score review protocols and constant rule changes - this just adds more fuel to an ever-growing fire.
Fantasy footballers have also been left disgruntled by the decision to only feature select teams in the opening round as it leaves the selection protocols in disarray.
"You're majorly alienating 200,000+ AFL Fantasy & Supercoach players”, one Reddit user says.
If it is to be successful, the AFL must consider the ‘Opening Round’ concept for the AFLW. If anything, it makes more sense - Sydney’s average AFLW home crowd numbers more than doubled in Season Eight.
Attaching the concept to the AFLW competition would provide much-needed continuity between the men’s and women’s leagues - if this isn’t considered, the idea’s sustainability will be severely hindered.