The mathematical conundrum: How to keep Gather Round in the future when 19 teams doesn’t fit evenly into 10 games


How can Gather Round continue to gather all footy fans into one place when Tasmania enters the competition in coming seasons?

With an odd number of teams, one team and their set of fans will have to miss out each year. That is the most obvious solution, like the NRL currently does for its Magic Round.

Well, not if one team plays two games as part of Gather Round.

The first match can be on Wednesday night and one of those teams who lined up will play again on Sunday either as a twilight or night fixture.

It would mean a four-day break for one team, which is not ideal but a better solution than having one team’s fans miss out on one (or multiple) Gather Rounds in the one year, which would somewhat defeat the purpose of making it an all-inclusive event.

It would be most logical to give Adelaide and Port Adelaide alternately this extra game, both to maximise attendances but also neutralising the advantage they get of an extra home game.

Collingwood and Essendon already play off a four-day break when ANZAC Day falls on a Wednesday, such as in 2007, 2012 and 2018.

The AFLPA have signed off on five-day breaks being a regular occurrence, so a one-off four-day break is hardly a stretch.

Just like Collingwood and Essendon have been willing to sacrifice on those occasions for a special cause, so can Adelaide and Port Adelaide.

Collingwood and Essendon have been great ambassadors of the ANZAC Day game and are not ignorant of the advantage they enjoy getting to play in the biggest home-and-away game of the year every year.

Gather Round 2024. Completed it mate.#GatherRound #weflyasone

— Joel Smith (@Smithysays) April 9, 2024

If Gather Round is to stay locked into South Australia for the foreseeable future, as it should, then the Crows and Port Adelaide should also view themselves as more than just participants, but champions of it.

It would be in their own interests as well to make this sacrifice for the sake of keeping it in the city.

It doesn’t even have to be the South Australian teams; another club might be willing to do the double-up.

Like Melbourne did by staying in Adelaide last week; a glass half-full approach can see the positives of staying based in Adelaide and knocking two games out in quick succession, effectively saving one interstate trip for the year, and then getting a bye the following week.

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Stretching Gather Round out to five days has its drawbacks. There may not be such a concentration of all the fans gathering at the same time over the weekend.

If your team gets the Wednesday night fixture, you’ll feel a bit dudded as a fan having to extend your stay to be there over the actual weekend when all the other fans will flock into town.

What another #GatherRound it was, bring it on in the Barossa as well in 2025! ???? Again shout out,
to suns_afl on Tik Tok ???? #afl

— TheRealAFL2.0 (@TheRealAFL2020) April 9, 2024

However, keeping Gather Round in school holidays means families who would already consider taking time off work wouldn’t mind the mid-week game.

Gerard Whateley suggested last year Gather Round should be expanded to five days, like a cricket test match.

This is a once-a-year footy festival, all 19 teams playing 10 games in five days would be a special way to celebrate it.

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