AFL 3 months ago

Why The Draw Should Stay: My Five Favourite Heart-Stopping Draws

  • Why The Draw Should Stay: My Five Favourite Heart-Stopping Draws

    PERTH -JUNE 8: Bulldogs players sit dejected after drawing the match with the Eagles during the round 11 AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the Western Bulldogs at Subiaco Oval June 8, 2003 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Over the past number of weeks, we've seen AFL experts share their opinion on whether or not the AFL should ban the result of a draw if the two competing teams cannot be seperated after four quarters and over 120 minutes of football. This has come after we have witnessed three heartstopping draws in the 2017 season - all of them coming within the month of July and there is the possibility of a fourth draw before the season comes to a close.

Since the VFL/AFL began in 1897, we have had 157 draws among the thousands and thousands of league matches in the history of the game, including three Grand Finals, but for some reason, some of the league's greats and some of the league's expert analysts want the draw gone from the game for good. However, if the AFL decide to do something about getting rid of the draw and then replacing it with something that decides a winner during the regular season, then it would be a huge mistake.

An article by former West Coast and Carlton superstar Chris Judd in The Age that was written less than a couple of weeks ago, said that the thrilling draw between Collingwood and Adelaide in round 18 - which saw Adelaide come from a 50-point deficit only to goal after the siren to pinch the draw - was "One of the games of the year" and that it "Left fans and players alike with neither the high of victory or the low of defeat".

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Basically meaning that fans who payed to watch this great contest were robbed of a winner and a loser. In my eyes, this is simply not true. Each game of footy roughly goes for about two hours and in a regular season game, if a game doesn't have a winner and a loser by the final siren, then that should be that - nobody wins and two premiership points will be awarded to each team. That's the way it's been for years, and that's how it should be in the years to come.

It's the emotion of the result that plays a huge role into why I love this game of ours. I've experienced the joy of close call victories, both playing and spectating and and I've experienced the agony of close call losses, both as a player and spectator. I've also experienced the joys, the ecstasy, the pain from the other side of the fence, going to several AFL matches throughout the season that haven't featured my Western Bulldogs - the atmosphere when you win, when you lose, even when you draw, I seriously cannot get enough of it.

Earlier this year, I experienced my first draw as a local footy player, although the scoreboard said we had won the match, the goal umpires confirmed that it had been a draw. The feeling was very hollow for me, whilst a few of my team mates, were a tad livid to say the least, but that's footy and my love for the game still beats true

Judd suggested further into his article that if regular season games cannot be seperated after four quarters, then it should go to either extra time and then a shootout if the result still can't be decided in extra time. We already go into extra time during any finals game because we need a winner, and since last year, the AFL has scrapped doing any Grand Final replays from now on, with the winner of the Grand Final decided by extra time as well, which is a very good call.

Out of the three Grand Finals that have resulted in draws in the history of the VFL/AFL, two of the three replays were hardly considered thrilling sequels to their first Grand Final, but most importantly, numbers to all the Grand Final replays dipped - probably because they couldn't make it the following week, or maybe they don't want to fork out the money to go again which I completely understand.

The 1948 Grand Final between Melbourne and Essendon drew a crowd of over 86,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, to which they saw a wayward Essendon kick 7.27 in a draw with the Demons. The following week, only 52,226 turned up to the replay, in which Melbourne won comprehensively. 

In 1977, over 108,000 people saw North Melbourne fight from 27 points down at three quarter time to draw with Collingwood in the Grand Final. A week later, the number in the crowd dropped only marginally to just over 98,000, but they saw a high-scoring battle which was won by the Kangaroos.

And then of course, the most recent Grand Final - The 2010 game between St. Kilda and Collingwood. Just over 100,000 attended the game in which we saw the third-ever drawn Grand Final. A week later the numbers dwindled down to just under 94,000 but it was a dominant Collingwood performance that afternoon.

The dip in crowd attendance for the last two, may not be huge, but it does hurt the AFL to a degree because the replays don't really garner nearly enough interest than the first game, and it certainly would be a bit frustrating for fans and players alike to have to come back to the Melbourne Cricket Ground a week later to do it all again, and it was finally brought in for last year's AFL Grand Final, which was good, seeing as the last drawn Grand Final was only seven years ago, and sparked all levels of debate.

But in terms of scrapping the draws in regular-season games, they need to stay as they provide a sense of unpredictability and at times a rarity, as games are hardly decided by a draw in this day and age. I've listed my five favourite games that have resulted in draws to hopefully either enhance your stance on keeping the draw or persuade you to change your mind on the matter.

Round 14, 2002 - Essendon vs Western Bulldogs

Despite this game being over 15 years ago, I can remember this game very clearly as I was at a friend's house that on that Saturday night, he was actually a Bombers supporter we positioned ourselves in the lounge room and we watched as Essendon, who were rated as the hot favourites for this game and a Western Bulldogs side that looked out of sorts, fight out the second draw of the 2002 AFL season, with scores locked at 102 apiece at full-time.

After a tussle of a contest all night long, Luke Darcy kicked the Dogs in front late in the game, only to have it taken away by a free kick to Matthew Lloyd from close range and on a tight angle, and as I put my hands on my head, conceding he was going to get Essendon the win, Lloyd - lining up for a match-winning sixth goal, misses it to the left, gifting the Dogs two premiership points - it was an unbelievable game and neither myself or my friend could've believed the result.

Round 12, 2010 - Melbourne vs Collingwood

Some say that this was one of the most thrilling Queen's birthday encounters ever witnessed in recent memory. Having met earlier in the 2010 AFL season, to which saw Collingwood hold on by a point, nothing could seperate these two teams in their rematch on Queen's Birthday, with Melbourne and Collingwood deadlocked at 76-all. With the previous season's wooden spooners Melbourne in front by a kick with minutes left to go, Tarkyn Lockyer kicked the goal that spared the Pies' a few blushes.

Unfortunately for Collingwood supporters, they really should've won this match as they had enough forward 50 entries to kick a winning score, yet they could only manage 9.22 from 58 inside 50 entries - 20 more inside 50s than Melbourne, who scored 11.10 - 31 scoring shots to 21. The Pies were made to pay for their inaccuracy in front of goal on this day, but they would eventually go on to win the premiership this season.

Round 5, 2008 - Western Bulldogs vs Richmond

The Western Bulldogs started the 2008 season with four wins on the trot, but then came across a real hurdle as they hosted Richmond at Etihad Stadium. Despite the Dogs controlling the first term, they had shot themselves in the foot in the first quarter, kicking 4.10, but steadied in front of goal to finish with 19.16.130 to draw with the Tigers' 20.10.130 - this being the second-highest draw in the history of the game.

24 points down early in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs fought back to get within seven points, before the Tigers steadied with goals to Jack Riewoldt and Troy Simmonds to get out to a 19-point buffer. However the Dogs fought back with the final three goals of the match, the last goal controversially coming from Will Minson after Brian Lake took a strong pack mark inside 50, only to pull up sore - unable to take the kick. Richmond supporters would've told you on that day that he staged it and didn't want to take the kick, but Minson stepped up to the plate and kicked the goal to tie the scores up with seconds left to go. The Tigers didn't have enough time to get it forward as the siren sounded inside their attacking 50.

Round 16, 2006 - Essendon vs Carlton

Round 16 in the 2006 AFL season was branded 'Heritage Round' and for old rivals Essendon and Carlton, they would produce another thrilling game in the history of these two proud football clubs. Despite these two sides occupying the bottom two spots on the ladder, they would put on a show in front of the MCG crowd as the scores were levelled at 105-105 when it was all said and done.

The margin never got above four goals, as Carlton did not go away whenever Essendon looked like they were threatening to run away with it. Scott Lucas and his six goals looked likely to prove decisive as the Bombers held a two-goal advantage with under four minutes to go. However, with Brendan Fevola's bag of five goals, and a little goalsneak by the name of Eddie Betts popping up with the final two goals of match, with a minute left to go - escaping what should've been certain defeat. Both sides tried to get one last score in, but to no avail as the Essendon and Carlton drew for the fourth time since the birth of AFL footy in 1897. 

Round 11, 2003 - West Coast vs Western Bulldogs

With the Western Bulldogs having failed to register a win in the 2003 AFL season since the opening round in which they accounted for Geelong, the Doggies' trip out West to face West Coast certainly didn't sound like it was the game to break their losing run. However, after a sluggish start that saw the Eagles kick five of the opening six goals of the game and lead by as much as 30 points midway through the second term, the Dogs got the game back on their terms.

The Bulldogs blew West Coast open with a seven-goal third quarter to take the a 14-point lead into three-quarter time, but the home side weren't to be out-done, kicking five goals in the final quarter but that was not enough, as the Dogs still led by a two kicks thanks to seven goals from Nathan Brown and with two minutes left to go, things looked bleak. However, a kick from Chad Fletcher reduced the deficit to one goal, and then just when it looked like the Dogs would hang on, they would turn it over kicking it out of defensive 50, and the ball would land into the arms of 19-year old Ashley Sampi who was only playing his 14th career AFL game. He would go back and calmly slot it through after the siren ensuring the Dogs' win-less run continues, with the scores locked at 124-124.

The suggestion of getting rid of the draw altogether adds to a extensively long list of things that should be taken away or have already been taken away from this game that we love, with tackling the most recent topic of discussion, because there are certain tackles - through no fault of the tackler - resulting in concussions for the man tackled and suspension for the tackler.

The game needs to stop changing up the rules so often, there are certain instances (e.g changing the rules to a drawn Grand Final) to which that are okay, but if it's getting to the point where we are replicating what happens when we have a draw at a NHL regular season game or an NBA regular season game - both codes requiring extra time to declare a winner - then it's time the AFL take a good look at themselves, because they are slowly losing their identity as a sport and just adopting rules from all the other sports.

Whilst I have all the respect in the world for Chris Judd as a player and a football analyst, he got this article and this opinion of getting rid of the draw wrong, and for those who do agree with him - which I'm sure there will be some - they are also wrong. The draw needs to stay and keep whatever traditions this game has left, going as strong as it has ever been.

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