The 2017 SANFL Macca’s League (that is a bit of a mouthful) fixture was officially released today. A few months ago I wrote about what the SANFL needed to do in order to remain relevant moving forward including aspects of the fixture. It appears that they have adopted some of these ideas, but there is also some curious elements in the 2017 draw that raise more questions than answers.
Why have South Adelaide lost Good Friday footy? As one of the pioneers of that time slot, it seems odd that a decision would be made by the Club or the SANFL to remove them from this fixture. South Adelaide have assured fans the fixture will return next year when they have home hosting rights, but that one seems strange. Instead, the Panthers will play an Easter Sunday game at Encounter Bay against Adelaide. A great idea to take footy to different places, but on Easter Sunday? I am not sure how many people are going to turn up for that one.
The Saturday afternoon time slot will host 65% of matches in 2017, which is a positive. It appears that more has been done to avoid clashing AFL games with corresponding AFL Reserve side games, but still not enough. There should be no clashes at all. Adelaide have two direct crossovers and a partial clash. The first of these is in Round 3, when Adelaide play Gold Coast and Adelaide play Central District. Clashes also occur in Round 5 and then in Round 11 (where both AFL and SANFL games start at the exact same time). Port Adelaide meanwhile play North Melbourne at home in the AFL and then Central District at Elizabeth in the SANFL in Round 13, which is their only direct clash. The start times are exactly the same, which really is a silly move.
While Saturday is the most popular time slot, it is good to see a couple of extra Friday night games next season. Kicking the year off with three Friday night games is a good idea as the weather should still be reasonable then. Easter Thursday footy at the Parade is always popular and rightfully returns.
The finals remain at Adelaide Oval, which is no surprise, but it is the wrong decision. Given crowd numbers at major round games in previous years, surely it is time to return finals footy to the suburban grounds. ANZAC Day is set to return to the suburbs where Sturt and the Eagles will play at Peter Motley Oval on April 25.
Three byes remain throughout the season. In an eighteen round competition, why on earth do we need three byes? While one is the ideal number, two must be the absolute maximum. Otherwise it becomes a momentum killer. At least all rounds have five games except for one where the Eagles and Sturt will have a bye following their ANZAC Day clash to be held on a Tuesday afternoon. The bye situation is an improvement on last year, but there is still too many rests.
Channel Seven will broadcast all the telecast games on their main channel in 2017. Television is great exposure for the League, but unfortunately will continue to impact on crowd numbers. Note that in a peculiar twist, it appears no games will be televised in Round 11.
Ultimately this is a better draw than the 2016 edition of this competition, but my fear is not enough has changed in order for it to reverse crowd numbers and declining interest. Let’s hope I am wrong. Clubs need to now get out there on their social media accounts (I am still awaiting that call to help a SANFL club get verified on Twitter and improve their social media element) and promote games for next season. They need to do player and sponsor profiles and create more interest around their respective clubs. The SANFL and clubs also need to offer a better game day experience in 2017 and stamp out the continued unruly behaviour that has become out of hand in recent time.
See you at the SANFL Macca’s League in 2017!