Sport AFL Clear the decks and let the AFLW thrive and prosper
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Clear the decks and let the AFLW thrive and prosper

Underwhelming ... Essendon's Adam Saad on the ball against Geelong's Patrick Dangerfield in the Marsh Series.
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Gee whiz, wasn’t the Marsh Series exciting this year – said no one ever.

Thankfully the AFL men’s pre-season competition has now been run and done.

Well it’s not really a competition is it? I think they call it a ‘series’ these days.

They should scrap the whole thing and never have its like again.

There are several reasons for this.

First and foremost, it overshadows its own AFLW competition right when it should be front and centre.

Why would you run a series right through rounds 3, 4 and 5, when the momentum of the season is starting to gather some force?

A drag on the game … the women’s game won’t flourish if it is forced to compete with the long-established – and heavily financed – men’s game. Photo: Getty

They did the same thing last year with the disastrous AFLX concept which was fortunately scrapped this year.

We can’t help the finals of AFLW running into the men’s season, and as usual the opening round of the men’s competition will take media precedence.

But take note of the column inches dedicated to the meaningless Marsh series games and note how they have pushed the AFLW stuff back at least half a dozen pages.

I don’t blame the papers necessarily for this. We forget that they are a business and have to print what sells, but I seriously doubt people buy more papers because of a meaningless game played in Morwell.

For those who think the series is a great guide to the upcoming season, I have news for you.

It is a complete and utter waste of time to try and extrapolate pre-season games into the real stuff.

Do we really think Gold Coast are 11 goals better than Geelong?

Have Collingwood improved so much that they are now 40 points better than the reigning premiers?

What does that say for the Saints who then beat Collingwood? Certain premiers, if you ask me.

We all know the AFL has a desire to dominate the media for a full 12 months a year. Just look at how they manage to stretch the draft and trade week over six weeks. This should at the most be a two-week exercise, but by stretching it out they keep themselves front of mind and competitor sports in the background.

It makes sense to keep competitors down, but not when you are hindering one of your own competitions.

The solution is to scrap it completely. Let the clubs organise their own practice matches if they want to play another team.

This way they can modify their pre-seasons to suit their own needs. The team that does it the best will gain an advantage over the others. The teams who stuff it up will suffer early.

If a more secretive coach wants to keep things in-house and only play intra-club games, then go right ahead.

I suggest many teams would take up this option, as it allows you to try things, experiment with positions, game styles without the prying eyes of opponents and the football world upon you. As it is, if you want to try anything new you have to do it on live TV.

The only positive about the series is that some of the games are played in regional areas. The townsfolk would certainly appreciate this, as would local businesses. Perhaps an extension of the community camps that all clubs must undertake might make up for the shortfall.

Spending a week in the town and visiting local clubs, schools and putting on information nights for coaches and players is far more effective than everyone arriving for one day and then scooting off.

In the good old days we used to play for something. I never won a day-time flag but do proudly put 1996 night premiers on my CV. And there will never be another five-day, five-night Premiership hero like Dermott Brereton.

But these days they play purely to keep broadcasters happy.

Would the inability to do either of these things hurt the modern player? Absolutely not.

So scrap these meaningless games and give AFLW the clear air it deserves.

Nathan Burke is a former St Kilda captain who played 323 AFL games for the Saints, winning three Trevor Barker Awards as best-and-fairest player