Training Preparation focus

G’day everyone, my first new topic, I hope I’m doing it right.

Something got me thinking recently, are individuals\teams\coaches (in any sport, though particularly Aussie Rules) ethically\legally obligated to approach training\gameday with a single-minded focus on the upcoming match, (essentially treating every match as a GF?) Or is it ok for teams to “pace themselves” wrt training intensity\squad selection\game plans etc with a view to ensuring their best22 is cherry-ripe for the grand final, even if in taking this approach they know they’re more likely to drop a couple of games along the way; games they’d be less likely to drop if they’d taken the first approach?

Are there any specific directives from the AFL, laws around matchfixing\tanking, influence from gambling sponsors “wagering partners,” narratives from the media, a duty to their supporters etc for teams to lean more one way than the other?

Keen to hear your thoughts.

PS. My apologies if this topic has been discussed before, if so please link me and I’ll go and read it.

Just briefly, the pre-finals bye was brought in because teams were resting their star players in readiness. Which potentially could compromise ladder positions of teams vying for finals. Any actual rules as such I’m not aware of though.

Actually saying that, you can get fined $500,000 for tanking but not be found guilty of it. Go figure.

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Spent some time on the AFL website (because I’m work blitzing) looking through policies and procedures trying to find a directive where clubs are directed to try and “win every match”. What I found though - was a good way to defend tanking/pacing themselves:

From the AFL Coaches Code of Conduct (link below)

I will avoid overplaying the talented players aiming to maximise participation and enjoyment for all players regardless of ability. Where I am responsible for players in the 5-12 year old age group, I will strive to ensure that all players gain equal playing time.

Obviously this is more aimed at junior coaches - but I believe all coaches have to sign the code of conduct. The above clause, I believe, is known through the industry as “The Zac Clarke Clause”

I will ensure that developing players are involved in a positive environment where skill learning and development as priorities are not overshadowed by a desire to win

This part is known as “The Worsfold Section” or “Learnings”

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There is a reason that Melbourne weren’t found guilty of tanking and that’s because there is no specific rule that refers to tanking. So they were found guilty of the generic offense of conduct prejudicial to the game or some such.

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Wasn’t it more that tanking is pretty close to match fixing. It wasn’t the AFL rules as criminal ones that was the main issue.

So the AFL said not guilty to avoid criminal investigations but punished them as if they were guilty.

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Thanks for the replies everyone.

It seems there’s some indication that doing things to not win the immediately upcoming\current match is bad. That makes sense. Yet it seems common, and widely accepted practice for clubs to do things like:

Manage players’ training loads and not rushing players back from injury, (even if there would be a short-term benefit to the team.)
Players often come back from injury via the state leagues rather than straight back into the AFL team.
Resting certain (fit) best22 players when there are 5-day breaks between matches and travel to Perth is involved.
Benching star players for the last 5 minutes of the 4th quarter when they’re 6 goals up to avoid injury.
When it becomes unlikely\mathematically impossible half way through the season for a club to make the 8, the club benches best22 veterans and plays the kids, experiments with position swaps and new game plans etc.

To me, these things seem sensible if a club’s aim is to ultimately win premierships. However I can also see that a club taking this approach could mean they go into regular season games at less than full strength, so they’re more likely to lose games along the way, or at the very least affect margins (particularly with resting star players before the end of the 4th quarter.)

In some ways I suppose it depends on the result of the matches (which is annoying.) If clubs do these things but comfortably win matches anyway, then they’re geniuses, and no one asks questions. However if clubs lose matches, (or only win by narrow margins,) then questions get asked.

It happened in esports recently. A dominant team with a secure spot on the ladder (similar to Ess 2000,) was expected to thrash their opponents, but they lost. It later came out that this dominant team didn’t put in 100% into their preparation for this particular match, and didn’t take the game too seriously. They apparently said that they were secure in their position on the ladder regardless of the result, didn’t want to give away too much of their strategy to opposition teams too early in the piece, and that they were pacing themselves so they could be cherry-ripe for the grand final (in which they later smashed their opponents and won, so their approach seemed to work long term.)

Some people were of the opinion that a team choosing to not put 100% into their preparation and not taking the individual match too seriously qualified as “unintentional matchfixing.”

I wondered if given that AFL teams seem to train\play with a September focus, were a dominant team to train\play with a less-than-100% intensity and lose an inconsequential (for them) regular season game, would they face similar scrutiny.

Tanking/ not caring to win after mathematically not able to make finals, has only been a problem since there became an advantage to finishing lower.

As long as one exists, so will the other.

But even if there was no draft advantage, you’d still pack up players that had been playing injured and they’d rather not be doing so, and those that needed surgery would go straight to have it to be ready for next season etc. That just makes sense.

You’d also play the youth, and maybe experiment with game style and set ups etc,… but you’d still try to win to inspire fans/Members for the next year.

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This is a quote from Gildo.

“In the end the recommendation from the integrity department was that the charge of a team not performing on its merits on match day was not able to be sustained and the players went out to win and they were coached to win."

But they just fined them $500k for good measure.

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Something that’s common across all professional sports is going hell-for-leather at everything for the entire duration of the season isn’t sustainable and won’t bring you success. This is why you have players rested, training loads managed, etc etc etc. It’s far more observable in sports with long seasons like ice hockey, soccer and baseball.

Because of that, there’s always going to be instances where short term goals (win today) conflict with long term goals (win the championship). And if coaches don’t prioritise the long term goal then what the fk are they even doing?

Professional teams and coaches and athletes never set out to lose a game under normal circumstances. There’s a difference between “let’s throw this game” and “let’s run with these limitations and see what happens”.

The situation you have put out there in your post was probably a psychological impact of the low stakes of the situation. How do you motivate yourself or a team to give 100% effort when the outcome of the game isn’t relevant? Anyone who is able to work this out will make millions and millions of dollars being the best sports psychologist in the world.

When the conversation turns to match-fixing, you need irrefutable proof that the intention was to lose. This generally only occurs if there is documentation - a recording of a conversation, or an email or something similar. So if you don’t have that, then how do you irrefutably prove someone’s intrinsic intent? You can’t, it’s impossible.

Even if they say afterwards that’s what they set out to do, it isn’t necessarily a reflection of their conscious or unconscious intentions before the game. What if they had set out to “tank” the game, but still won? Would they say the same thing afterwards?

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Thanks for that. That helps get my thoughts more succinct; balancing the short term goals (winning today) vs balancing the long term goals (winning the premiership) is a good way of putting it.

On the one hand there’s the “Self-impose some limitations now with a view to being in a better position to win the flag later, (but still try to win games now with those limitations in place,”) and on the other hand there’s “Deliberately throw the match for whatever reason; draft picks, bribes etc.” The first is generally accepted, the latter is not. As long as the team is still trying to win it’s ok, so in my example, as long as the team in question didn’t deliberately set out to lose, then they’re just playing with self-imposed limitations with the intention to stand themselves in good stead for the finals, which isn’t match-fixing.

So I suppose my question is, if a team knows that the way they’re going about things is a departure from the expected norm, are they required to make it known publicly beforehand? Is there any rule, or do they have a duty to their supporters\the league\the bookies\broadcasters etc to say “Hey guys, we’re taking it easy this week, we’re only intending to do 1 training session instead of the usual 3, and we’re only planning to go at 70% on game day… but of course we’ll still try to win.” I imagine some bookies\punters would be upset if they thought they were taking odds\betting based on a team’s 100% training\gameday effort, and this stuff only came out afterward. Similarly, some broadcasters would be annoyed if instead of getting a “blockbuster” performance to broadcast they essentially got a “training run.”

Nope, no rules. Otherwise you could argue that they would be required to share their game plan, tactics, etc at all times, not just if they’re planning on easing off.

A lot of people forget that coaching or playing football professionally is a job. I watched a talk/Q&A with Tom Boyd last night, and he was asked if he considered himself a football fan now that he’s retired. In giving his answer (I’m paraphrasing with a lot of poetic license here), he talked about how you would spend 2-3 hours a week at the club watching and reviewing game footage in an analytical manner, so what kind of maniac would then go and watch more games for fun in their limited time off?

The coaches’ and players’ job is to win premierships. Nowhere in their job descriptions or contracts or whatever does it say that they should do so in an entertaining manner. If it did, Paul Roos, Ross Lyon and Terry Wallace would never have been senior AFL coaches. Fan following, gambling and TV production are all by-products of the coaches and players going out and doing their job. If you took away all the fans and the gambling and the TV, their job would not fundamentally change. They have no obligation to those parties at all. Expecting them to have an obligation to any of those parties beyond their job would be like expecting the Coles checkout staff to come home with you and cook the food you just bought.

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Thanks, that all makes sense.

So to sum up:
It’s the players\coaches etc job to win premierships.

They’re allowed to self-impose limitations along the way in an effort to ensure long-term success (even potentially at the cost of meeting short-term objectives.)

If they do choose to impose some limitations, they’re not under any obligation to tell anyone about it (except for things like naming the team by a certain deadline before the match.)

Even if those limitations are in place on game day, as long as on game day they try to win, and don’t actively try to lose, then it’s not matchfixing.

The onus is on the bookies\punters\broadcasters etc to do their own research into what’s going on to figure out how best to approach an upcoming game. They can’t rely on a club to be treating every game as a GF, especially if the upcoming game is one in which one or both of the teams playing are in a safe spot on the ladder\mathematically can’t make the 8 etc.

If that’s all correct, thanks for helping me get this straight in my head.

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