AFL Round Table: Friday night start times are too late; time for mid-season trades?

Our AFL experts tackle some of the burning questions ahead of Round 13, including whether Friday night footy should start earlier, if it's time to bring in a mid-season trade period and more.

What's the ideal start time for a Friday night match?

Rohan Connolly: I'm not overly fussed when Friday night games start to be honest, assuming that most people aren't working the following day and can have a reasonably leisurely start to their Saturday. I don't think 7.50 (which we now have) is too bad, it means games finish around 10.30. But 7.30 appears to make a little more sense, and would mean a 10.10 finish, which you'd think would ensure more kids can watch the end of a game. The downside for TV viewers? It could mean another 15 or so minutes of "Roaming Brian".

Jake Michaels: Make the move to 7:30pm. I've always thought it's strange that the Friday night game starts later than the Saturday night games. Most of us have well and truly wrapped up work by 7:30pm and have plenty of time to get home or to the ground and settle in. I don't really see the value in games finishing after 10:30pm, especially when we want as many people as possible tuning in to watch.

Matt Walsh: Given TV ratings are king, I'm surprised the host broadcaster and the AFL enjoy such a late start at 7.50pm Eastern given not many others do. Is 7.20pm too hard? Sure, some people may still be coming home from work, and it isn't a great move for those in the west, but given the AFL is happy with game lengths, starting a little earlier and finishing by just after 10pm is probably the sweet spot.

Jarryd Barca: It all comes down to what's more important for the AFL - in-person stadium attendance, or TV ratings/viewership, but regardless it's a topic that needs to be addressed prior to the release of next season's fixture. I get the benefits of a 7.50pm (AEST) bounce, but games are finishing way too late so bringing the start time forward by half an hour would be ideal, allowing more families to attend night games knowing they can be home at a more reasonable time. Not ideal for those travelling in from rural areas, or fans in WA, but you can't please everybody.

Is it time to introduce a mid-season trade period?

RC: No, and for a couple of reasons. It's not like player movement hasn't been dramatically freed up over the last couple of decades with free agency, delisted free agency, and most recently a mid-season draft. I like stable lists, and I also like the "made your bed, lay in it" philosophy, ie. if list managers can't get it right before the season starts, tough. As for injury, ditto, it's the luck of the draw. The main reason, though, is so much media space is already consumed by speculation on player contracts and moves, do we really need more of it, most likely at the expense of coverage of the actual game?

JM: I understand this is done in other professional sports but I'm not a fan. Rohan's right; if clubs and their list managers can't get things sorted before Round 1, why should we be bailing them out? I think it would also somewhat cheapen what it means to be a premiership player. A mid-season trade period could mean an established player gets moved to a new club, plays 10 games with their new side and wins a premiership. Maybe I'm just a grump but it gives me real American sports vibes, where players move around so much and loyalty goes out the window.

MW: Yes, because it's beneficial to all clubs, including the struggling ones. Say a contender needs a ruckman to challenge for a flag, could they offer a struggling club like North a first-round pick for Todd Goldstein? Overs, yes, but if you're a club that believes you're a chance to win the lot, wouldn't you take that risk? Given we already trade future picks, it would be so easy for clubs to offer their end of season draft picks in a trade - and those picks would be much more certain given half the season has already panned out. Find a way to tick it off with the AFLPA!

JB: I can't help but feel like this is a fait accompli -- it's going to happen -- I'm just not sure I'm ready for it! The mid-season draft is already a mechanism clubs can use to fill a list need and either bolster their premiership chances or get in ahead of rivals and add more young talent to the squad. And what about the sharing of game plans when a player makes a switch? Yeh, not sure. We don't need to further compromise the art of list management by introducing another trade period, not yet anyway.

Who's winning the Rising Star at the halfway point of the year?

RC: Looks like Geelong's Sam De Koning is developing quite the bandwagon, and fair enough, too, given the sort of pressure on a key position defender tackling (literally and metaphorically) some of the biggest names in the game. Nick Daicos is all class for the Pies, and the pre-season raps were more than justified. But I've loved what Jai Newcombe does for Hawthorn, a tackling machine, hard at the contest, a prolific ball-winner and very consistent. He's my winner right now, just.

JM: I picked Nick Daicos at the start of the year and I still think he's probably the frontrunner for the award. His sensational Round 12 performance against Hawthorn is almost certainly going to snag him his first three Brownlow Medal vote game and I reckon there's plenty more down the track. He's an elite ball winner and only getting better. If he doesn't get up, I'd love to see Jai Newcombe take it out. Another young midfielder matching it, and at times upstaging, some of his A-grade counterparts.

MW: Three letters - SDK. De Koning has been wonderful for the Cats, so much so that he's allowed Mark Blicavs to roam up the ground, be it in the ruck, on a wing, or as a run-with player. Together with Tom Stewart, they're one of the league's best intercepting duos. Still just 21 years of age, there's so much upside to his game, and the Cats seemed to have found a long-term key back.

JB: Nick Daicos' 36-possession game on the weekend probably just keeps him ahead of De Koning after 12 rounds, and Jai Newcombe is hot on their heels and has what it takes to pip both for the award. The way Daicos put his teammates on his shoulders to almost carry his team to that win over the Hawks, and use his precision and creativity on the outside, was very Pendlebury-like, and just exceptional for a raw 19-year-old who has been thrown around in different positions. He's my pick, but one thing's for certain - it's one hell of a race!

Are you reassessing Melbourne's premiership favouritism after two home losses?

RC: Nope. They've lost to two pretty handy opponents, and each time had important parts of the machine missing, most notably Steven May. OK, it's a cliche, but an AFL season is a marathon not a sprint. Fact is, with the exception of one or two wins, the Demons haven't really clicked into absolute top gear most of this year. I suspect the last couple of weeks might be just the sort of wake-up call Simon Goodwin's team needs.

JM: I think you have to ... even just a tad. They are still the team to beat, in my opinion, but nobody can honestly say they're as confident as they were two weeks ago. One of the concerns I had with the Demons last year was the forward line. We know Bayley Fritsch is a star mid-sized forward, but with Ben Brown going missing far more than you'd like to see and Tom McDonald battling injury, you just wonder if they are a little vulnerable. Remember, this Dees side isn't a team that blows their opposition out, so if the scoring dries up, that has to be somewhat concerning.

MW: Nope, but their forward line makeup has me concerned. Relying on Max Gawn to kick one third of your goals isn't going to fly. With Ben Brown inconsistent, Sam Weideman on the outer, Mitch Brown honest but not a top line player, and Tom McDonald now injured, the Demons are going to need to find a solution to the forward question. More output out of Christian Petracca would be good, too. I'm not worried yet, but I want to see how Simon Goodwin responds to the challenges laid before him.

JB: Short answer: yes. Long answer: what the past two games have shown is they probably don't have as deep a squad as we once thought, and although they play a tough, winning and hard-to-break down system, their forward line and defensive 50 stability (without Steven May) has been brutally exposed. Jake Lever isn't Jake Lever without May in the side, and their front-half game is out of whack. In fact, they've only scored more total points than one other team with 12 games played in the top half of the ladder (Collingwood), and barring cruisy wins against North and West Coast, they've only scored 100 once. They still deserve to be the hunted based on a 12-week sample size, sure, but how they respond in the coming weeks will tell us more than their recent defeats have.