WAFL adopts top five for finals

John Townsend
WAFL adopts top five for finals

A top five will be in place in the WAFL next season after the clubs agreed to the competition's most significant fixturing change in 20 years.

But the clubs still want 20 home-and-away matches and were adamant the season should not be reduced to 18 rounds.

The WA Football Commission's football affairs committee must ratify the decision before a top five can be introduced.

The cash-strapped WAFC is eager to reduce the league season to save at least $20,000 a round in match-day costs and make it easier for preferred television partner Channel 7 to broadcast the competition.

West Perth's Brett Raponi, the chairman of the WAFL's council of presidents, said introducing a top five was not as critical as retaining 20 rounds.

"It is very pleasing that a vast majority of clubs provided overwhelming support for 20 rounds," he said.

"Our stakeholders, that is our members, sponsors and fans, want 20 home-and-away games.

"And I suspect West Coast and Fremantle would be happy with that result too because it means the players at their aligned clubs keep going for that much longer."

The SANFL and VFL operate on an 18-round season.

The SANFL has 10 teams and a top five while the VFL uses a top six and will have 15 teams next year after Bendigo withdrew from the competition.

The WAFL clubs voted on Thursday to introduce a top five from next season.

It means the season would last 28 weeks with 23 weeks for the qualifying rounds, a four-week finals series and a general bye for the State match.

The WAFL has operated with the current top-four format since 1931 except for four seasons from 1991 to 1994 when Claremont and East Fremantle each won two flags under a top five.

The format was abandoned in 1995 because there was a feeling it rewarded mediocrity.

The fifth-placed team lost more qualifying matches than it won in three of those four seasons though East Perth in 1992 and Subiaco in 1993 still advanced to the preliminary final.

No team has won the premiership from the first semifinal since Swan Districts in 1983.

WAFL fixturing takes into account Foxtel Cup matches but that landscape is likely to change next season with games set to be played on Sundays as curtain-raisers to AFL matches.

Foxtel Cup television ratings were strong this season but the Tuesday evening games attracted minimal crowds.

·Perth chief executive Marty Atkins and coach Trevor Will- iams are waiting for the arbiter's decision after appealing against fines for criticising the umpires in a recent match.