In watching Channel Seven’s broadcast of Friday night footy, you can’t help but feel that Bruce McAvaney is one of the hardest working men in footy in 2020.
He’s forced to sit in a studio in Adelaide, watching monitors and commentating with a team that can hear him but can’t see him, and he has to try and build atmosphere, tension and excitement around a game that looks terrible as a spectacle, with a premiership favourite in Collingwood unable to score a goal for over two quarters.
And yet some will say that we’ve seen some great comebacks, and even on Friday night, the Magpies had a moment where they threatened the Bombers – but the fact that a team with three goals at three-quarter time can even remotely threaten the result of a game says a whole lot about the quality and state of the game.
The AFL has had its moment of global exposure, launching into the US market that the game has been trying to crack for years, broadcast for the masses on ESPN, and this is what we present to them as our great and truly national game.
There have been moments in 2020 when teams have surpassed expectations, and played footy that we can agree is an exciting brand – but it’s hard to argue that on the whole, the brand is being torched.
In a post-COVID sporting landscape in Australia, the AFL and NRL have forged ahead to try and push through, and give their socially distant and sport-starved fans what they crave: good footy.
And yet, on Thursday night, NRL fans watched the Roosters and Storm play the game of the season, with Melbourne completing an all-time comeback to steal the win – and the superlatives about the game and the brand abounded.
Then on Friday night, Parramatta were dominant in playing irresistible footy. This demonstrated that both codes were at polar opposites of the footy spectrum.
For all their clear failings around player conduct and good governance early in the COVID journey, the NRL have proved how you can manage a global pandemic and present exciting footy that crowds and television audiences love.
And we have the AFL, who through their constant tinkering with rules and interpretations, have created this Frankenstein of a sport, that coaches and players agree is dysfunctional and in need of help.
The AFL must be wondering where things have gone wrong. If the excuse is that players were under-prepared to play, the question has to be asked – was it better to wait and re-launch the AFL season with games that are played well, with scoring flowing freely, despite the obvious challenges of having a fluid fixture.
Even the most ardent of AFL fans will have questions about where the game is at and where it is heading with rules, interpretations and the fixture, so we can finish 2020 with a bang. Something has got to give.
Keep up the good work, Bruce – by God, we need someone to bring some positivity and light into our lives right now.