HOW DID AFLX START? AN INSIDE LOOK
It was 3am on a Sunday morning and the AFL’s latest coke fueled ideas session was starting to get into full swing.
While the night was young, ideas were starting to flow.
It had already been decided that next year, all tribunal decisions would be made by one person and someone had suggested Mick Malthouse would be a good idea.
Over the thumping music, an intern had misheard and written down ‘Michael Christian’. But no one noticed because another new idea had taken center stage.
The AFL executives had started kicking around the idea of a game to be played on a rectangle field. It was to be an historic moment.
The Long Weekend ‘Strategy Offsite’, was where the league developed its new ideas and was legendary in footballing circles.
It had just two rules, there were no bad ideas and you weren’t allowed to sleep for the three days over it was held.
No matter what level of the AFL you were at you could put forward an idea. In recent years, women had even been allowed to contribute ideas.
Ideas such as the sub rule, the Gold Coast Suns, variable ticketing, Etihad Stadium, International Rules, the 17-5 Fixture, ten teams in the finals, poaching Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau, the shot clock and Carlton getting lots of Friday night games, all had their origins in the offsite.
It was at the recovery party on the Sunday morning, that the idea that was to become AFLX was to be fleshed out.
A senior executive from the football operation area had mentioned it would be easier to stage games in northern states and overseas if the game could be played on a rectangular field.
“We’d have to modify the rules though,” said a junior member of the marketing team, the same person who had invented the GWS Giants.
“We could limit the teams to 11 players,” said a member of the dance circle.
“45-minute halves too,” said another.
Soon the ideas were coming as fast as the beats from the DJ’s laptop.
“Red and Yellow Cards”
“This could be huge overseas!” said a member of the AFL Commission, although the Chupa Chup they were sucking on made them hard to understand.
The session wrapped up and everyone agreed it had been a great offsite with lots of great ideas. Only the idea of a team in Tasmania had been seen as ‘too crazy’.
It was a week later though, as Gillon McLachlan reviewed the hurriedly scribble down notes one of his staff had made over the weekend, that it dawned on him that the team at AFL House had spent their offsite inventing soccer.
But by then it had been announced to the media that a rectangle version of the game was coming, there was to be no stopping AFLX.
A launch was to be put together, featuring elements of the ideas session that had birthed the new format of the game.
As the launch wrapped up, and the media had been ushered out, Gillon McLachlan stood in the middle of Etihad Stadium and could be heard remarking to no one in particular, “There are no bad ideas”, as a single tear ran down his cheek.