Players give NAB Cup the thumbs down
Friday March 19, 2010
FIRST scorned by the coaches €” led this week by Essendon's Matthew Knights €” now the friendless NAB Cup has been deserted by top players as calls intensify for the pre-season tournament to be scrapped.Collingwood captain Nick Maxwell was one of those leading the charge at yesterday's captains' meeting. The future of the competition when it is expanded to include Western Sydney and the Gold Coast was a hot topic at the meeting, which was attended by the captains of all 16 clubs and AFL chief executive officer Andrew Demetriou.Several skippers expressed a view that there should be longer home and away series and no NAB Cup."I'd probably suggest that the NAB Cup goes away and we leave it behind," Maxwell said later. "Once you look at 24 or 26 rounds, which they would be looking at, the finals might change as well to be nine or 10 teams, the season starts to get too long."Maxwell said he did not believe that any more than two practice matches were needed to prepare a team and those could be arranged by clubs to suit their own needs. Football was already turning into a "war of attrition", he said, and that situation would only worsen if the season was extended."We've just got to make sure we don't burn players out too much. We want players to stay around," he said. "We want players like Jonathan Brown to be around till he is 33, 34, 35. We don't want him to retire at 30."The AFL outlined some of the likely changes because of the new teams, including an increase in the size of lists and a possible nine- or 10-team finals series.Maxwell said his views on abolishing the NAB Cup were shared by most of the Magpies' playing group."It's definitely across the board," he said. "All players really think, especially with more rounds coming in, it's just going to be pretty tough to have four weeks of NAB Cup," he said.His view was echoed by another of the game's senior figures €” Adelaide captain Simon Goodwin. "I think the NAB Cup has run its course," Goodwin said. "With the new teams coming in an extended season is the way it will go, the only way to manage the season is to cut the pre-season."Goodwin said match simulation practice had become so advanced that practice matches were less important. "By the start of the NAB Cup you are already ready to go," he said. "You don't need so many games."The ever-recurring topic of state of origin football was also raised, with some support expressed for the state against state contest to be reintroduced as a pre-season spectacle in place of the NAB Cup.Maxwell said he was open to that idea. "Guys would actually really want to play then because they want the hitout before the season starts," he said. "I'd love to [see it]. I'd love to play for Victoria. It's something that I've never done before."Hawthorn captain Sam Mitchell said he supported a shorter pre-season if the home and away competition was extended. "Maybe the NAB Cup in its current form needs to be shortened a fair bit," he said.The AFL outlined some of the factors complicating the situation, including the need to take football out to regional areas and to spread as much television product across the calendar."People want footy as much as possible and for as long as possible," Mitchell said. "But there has got to be a bit of give and take, the players have got to be able to play for that amount of time."