Starting at 7pm, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan’s speech of introduction went longer than some quarters of football this year. At least it felt like it. The offer to NAB to speak should have been graciously declined by the bank.
Clubs do not need five minutes to make up their mind before every pick. They need two minutes. If they need more, because there is a trade happening, then they can request it. But giving everyone five minutes means some take time for no real reason, and in between times you just watch a room of people looking uncomfortable and one trying not to be noticed stealing all the lollies.
The broadcast was also misleading on this. Clubs insist they entered their picks or bids for players much sooner than the broadcast clock indicated. They know this because when a club entered a bid or a pick, the clock for the clubs stopped, but the clock on the broadcast did not. They know when bids or picks were entered and they say this was not the same time the TV audience was told.
Adelaide, for instance, lodged the bid for Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, the first pick in the draft, within 20 seconds. But the broadcasters talked for another couple of minutes before it came up.
The broadcasters themselves completely ran out of things to say by the end of their own coverage, so bored with hearing their own voices even they were joking about how ridiculously long the event was going. Which is ironic, given it is an event that in part went longer to suit them. The player interviews “yeah it’s surreal, just stoked, you only dream about it. I’ve always loved [checks notes] …” try to add value but stretch things out.
This is not to blame the AFL or the broadcaster. They are trying to turn the draft into something more engaging and watchable to those not in the process. To make it more interesting than just calling out the names of teenagers you have never heard of and asking you to trust them that they probably will be good players. But that takes time.
To make it more interesting than just a list of players, you have to add the drama of trading picks. But that takes time. And as a TV event, unless you can explain what clubs are doing in trades, with whom and why they are doing it, then the trading doesn’t add to the TV event.
This year was made more difficult because of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the under-18s and the fact the draft was held remotely. It is only a once a year event and it is still more interesting than the Brownlow, but it could be better.
AFL, you are on the clock.
Michael Gleeson is an award-winning senior sports writer specialising in AFL and athletics.