THE AFL is continuing to be agile in its determination to complete the 2021 VFL season and crown a premiership winner on Sunday, September 19, despite yet another round being lost to COVID-19 lockdown yesterday.
And the rebel VFLW Grand Final remains in limbo but will still be played as soon as it is possible to do so.
The AFL attempted unsuccessfully to gain permission for the game to be played in regional Victoria this Sunday and will now consult with Grand Final teams Collingwood and Geelong about giving them the best possible preparation for a decider, given the Magpies haven’t played since July 10 and the Cats since July 31.
On the VFL, it has now become impossible to get the competition’s 22 teams to reach the same number of matches for the season, and the ladder has now reverted to the match ratio system of determining positions that was in use in the AFL from 1991-93 after the Adelaide Crows were admitted as a 15th team.
It means instead of premiership points, the clubs will be ranked as a percentage of matches won divided by the number of matches played, multiplied by 100.
That decision has created a reshuffle to the ladder, with Williamstown rising from seventh to sixth, Collingwood from ninth to seventh and Werribee from 10th to ninth, while GWS falls from sixth to eighth and Frankston from eighth to 10th.
Although the loss of another round ends the mathematical finals hopes of Carlton and Sandringham, the top 10 remain in contention to make the eight.
The league is planning for all 22 clubs to play in next week’s round 19 as a finale to the home-and-away season that will also give the finalists the opportunity to have a hitout before entering a premiership campaign – lockdown pending of course.
And what a cracking round has been set down, with Frankston to host Werribee in an elimination final that will see the winner stay alive at least until GWS plays, with the Giants and all the top-four contenders (Box Hill, Geelong, Casey, Williamstown) taking on out-of-contention but dangerous opponents (Richmond, Sandringham, Carlton, Northern Bullants).
Collingwood faces the toughest task of beating undefeated Footscray to guarantee its finals spot and Port Melbourne has been given a home game against Coburg to farewell its legendary coach in Gary Ayres.
The finals will retain the present top eight system should they be able to start on the weekend of August 28, but the AFL has put a contingency in place should there be any further delays.
Should that weekend be lost, the top eight will revert to a full knockout competition, with first playing eighth, second v seventh, third v sixth and fourth v fifth in the first week.
A further reduction that only allows a two-week finals series would mean teams 5-8 are eliminated and it will be first v fourth and second v third for a spot in the VFL Grand Final.
AFL Head of Talent Pathways and State League Competitions Tristan Salter said the VFL community continues to navigate its way through a challenging year for sport and although the conclusion to the season looks different, it was the only system to reward a Premier.
"The VFL community has shown great resilience, commitment and dedication to explore all options to have matches played during an unprecedented year for football," Salter said.
"To play 107 games during a COVID-interrupted season with state lockdowns and moving borders has been an incredible achievement by the whole industry.
"In balancing all the challenges we face as a collective VFL industry, the match ratio system is the best outcome to provide the best opportunity to put together a start-to-finish finals series and crown a VFL Premier in 2021.
"We’re hopeful we can play the rebel VFLW Grand Final and VFL Final Series to reward the VFL football-starved community of fans across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland and celebrate a memorable year of football."
Salter thanked all the clubs, players, officials and their families for continuing to adjust to changes to keep the season going.
"Our VFL industry has developed a strong sense of unity across all clubs which will continue into the 2022 VFL Season," he said.
"The clubs have demonstrated a collective responsibility to play the final games and reward a Premier and, on behalf of the AFL I would like to thank our clubs, players, officials, partners and most importantly our incredible members and footy fans for their understanding during the season."
ROUND 19 SCHEDULE
(VENUES, DATES AND TIMES TO BE DETERMINED)
Frankston v Werribee
Williamstown v Northern Bullants
Port Melbourne v Coburg
Essendon v GWS Giants
Sandringham v Geelong
Richmond v Box Hill Hawks
Footscray v Collingwood
North Melbourne v Sydney
Carlton v Casey Demons
Brisbane Lions v Southport
Gold Coast v Aspley
(Still in finals contention)
UPDATED 2021 VFL LADDER
|3||Box Hill Hawks||10||8||2||0||167.7||80|