Well, with the AFL finals well underway, the one thing I can’t write about is my own team (but just you wait until 2011). My tipping in the finals has been awful, so while I still think it will be Geelong over Port, I’m not putting any money on that.
What I want to comment about is the naming used in our finals system. The term “preliminary” final dates back to the days when we had a top 4. In the first week of finals, it was 1v2 in a qualifying final that had a double chance, with the winner going straight into the GF with a week’s rest. Then it was 3v4 in an elimination final. Then in week two of finals, winner played loser (2v3) to decide the other team in the GF. This system achieved two goals: firstly to reward the top 2 teams with the “double chance”, and secondly to have an extra week of finals.
(Note that I’ve used a shortcut to describe subsequent games, e.g. 2v3, rather than “loser of qualifying final vs winner of elimination final” for brevity. I’ve used this throughout this article in the interests of brevity. I’m sure you understand what I mean).
We’ve come quite a long way since then: to a top 5, then 6, and now a top 8. While the current system works quite well, we have retained an anachronism in the way the finals are named. If we want the AFL to be a game that new supporters will find easy to learn, it helps to make the finals system easy to understand and consistent with other sports.
Our finals system has a situation where the last 4 teams play off for the right to play in the grand final, i.e. 1v4 and 2v3. Any other sport would call these semi finals. For historical reasons, we still call them preliminary finals. The first thing we need to do is rename them as semi finals.
Then, we are left with the problem of what we currently call our “semi finals”, which are 3v6 and 4v5 (while 1 & 2 get a week off). What I suggest is we call these either the 3rd & 4th quarter-finals or elimination finals.
To make this easier to understand, here is a summary of the finals system with my new suggested names:
1v4: 1st Qualifying Final
2v3: 2nd Qualifying Final
5v8: 1st Elimination or Quarter Final
6v7: 2nd Elimination or Quarter Final
1 & 2 get a week break
3v6: 3rd Elimination or Quarter Final
4v5: 4th Elimination or Quarter Final
1v4: 1st Semi Final
2v3: 2nd Semi Final
1v2: Grand Final
As you can see, the naming of finals is now consistent, and similar to other sports. The two games that feature the double chance are called qualifying finals to distinguish them. Any other final is a knock-out game.