AFL footy boss indicates ‘Opening Round’ here to stay

Shayne Hope |

Fans came out in their droves, including on the Gold Coast, for the AFL’s inaugural ‘Opening Round’.
Fans came out in their droves, including on the Gold Coast, for the AFL’s inaugural ‘Opening Round’.

AFL football boss Laura Kane has given the strongest indication yet that ‘Opening Round’ is here to stay, despite concerns the new concept further compromises the integrity of the fixture.

The inaugural four-match curtain-raiser – dubbed ’round zero’ by fans – drew sell-out crowds to venues across NSW and Queensland last week.

Kane was pleased with attendances, television ratings, membership sales and corporate support, declaring the round a success for the code in rugby league heartland.

She said there were “ticks everywhere” and was positive about the concept continuing in 2025.

“If you asked anyone today, you’d probably say yes – all the eight clubs that participated, everyone up there,” Kane said on Fox Footy on Monday night.

“We’ll look at it, we’ll review everything, but I loved it.”

Kane said the 10 clubs that were not part of the inaugural opening round had “a bit of FOMO” – fear of missing out.

“It reminded me of Gather Round last year,” Kane said.

“If you were there you loved it and had a terrific time (but) if you weren’t there you were sort of looking over the hill wondering what was going on because it was really fun.”

AFL officials Andrew Dillon (left) and Laura Kane (right).
Football boss Laura Kane (right) was a big fan of the AFL’s assault on rugby league’s heartland. (HANDOUT/AFL PHOTOS)

Games were played from Thursday to Saturday in the inaugural opening round and Kane said a Sunday match would be considered in future.

Critics of the concept point out that opening round and associated byes in the early weeks of the season will give eight of the competition’s 18 clubs an additional break.

It will also cause a lopsided ladder until round six.

But two-time Geelong premiership coach Chris Scott conceded those issues may be necessary for the “greater good” of the league.

“Of course it does (compromise the fixture) but like with a lot of these things, is the juice worth the squeeze? In this case it probably is,” Scott said on Fox Footy on Monday night.

“Let’s just be honest. Of course it compromises it, but it might be worth it.”

One common theory is that teams who played a match in the opening round will have an advantage against rivals running out for their first game this week.

“Maybe, but the bigger compromise is that those teams get two byes compared to every other team (getting one),” Scott said.

“If you ask the players, and this has gone on for a long time, the players association pushed the AFL to bring back the two byes and the answer was always there was no time.

“But now they’ve found the time – that’s the frustrating part.

“And ‘compromise’ sometimes gets a bad rap; sometimes you need to compromise for the greater good.

“That could be the case in this situation, but my point is just don’t pretend it’s not a compromise. Of course it is.”

AAP