Six deserves plenty of stick

September 08, 2017

The Bombers were again unbeatable against Shepparton Bears on Friday night, racking up their record-breaking 40th consecutive win.

It is about as consistent as Christmas, Easter and Bernard Tomic giving up in a Grand Slam.

Debate about the top six system in the Goulburn Valley League heats up every year without fail.

But why wouldn’t it when anyone could tell you there are better and fairer ways to run a finals series.

The AFL went through six seasons of a top eight system that was flawed, but eventually saw the light in 2000 and has not looked back since.

Arguments consistently came up about it during the 1990s, but criticism about the system in 17 years since has been as rare as Brian Taylor restraining himself when Orazio Fantasia has the ball.

It took the NRL much longer to see the fault of their ways, persisting with the same McIntyre set-up until 2011.

The change came about after teams that finished in the lower half of the eight were gaining a major advantage by springing an upset in week one of the finals.

That is what can, and does, happen with the GVL’s top six system.

You can finish fifth out of six teams and still somehow secure a double chance just by winning in the first week and results falling your way.

It has rarely happened in the senior football competition, but the reserves, under-18s and even the A-grade netball has seen teams do a Steven Bradbury to grab an automatic path to at least a guaranteed preliminary final berth.

Teams perform at a high level during the home-and-away season to give themselves the best opportunity to win the premiership with a solid run during the finals.

But the way it works it is more beneficial to finish third than second.

Shepparton earned its qualifying final spot through a terrific season to back up a breakout season last year.

While the Bears performed admirably against Kyabram last Saturday, the Bombers were simply too good on their way to a record-breaking 40th win in a row.

Shepparton’s reward?

A knockout final against an experienced Rochester on Sunday at Euroa.

Earlier in the day, third-placed Seymour secured its spot in a second semi-final and a double chance with victory against Benalla.

The Lions have been superb this season, but they have gained a major advantage by finishing below Shepparton on the ladder.

For the past three seasons, the sixth-placed team has limped into the finals and given third a golden run.

Benalla battled bravely on Saturday, but the Saints have been smashed by injuries this season and if they knocked off a rampant Seymour it would have been one of the biggest upsets in league history.

Shepparton Swans were in a similar position last year stumbling into finals, as was Euroa in 2015.

If you have a choice between trying to take down a powerhouse in week one and an easy kill to guarantee you are progressing further in the finals, you don’t really have to think twice.

A top six in finals is difficult to manage, no matter how you do it.

The Murray league and Kyabram District Football League have got it better, with the top two having the first week off before battling in the second semi-final for a place in the decider.

That actually gives the best two sides a genuine reward for the hard work put in during the season.

It takes a game off the finals schedule, which the GVL would probably never do because of the financial hole that would leave.

Top five and top eight systems are the fairest way to go, but that is not going to happen in the GVL, so the MFL and KDFL series are the next best bet.

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