AFLW news: West Coast AFLW coach Michael Prior savaged over ‘fixturing’ excuse in heavy loss

In the 150 years or so that professional sport has existed, there have always been mismatches.

It tends to go with the territory that a competition will have strong teams at the top and weaker teams down the bottom of the ladder.

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American baseball is credited with having the first professional league way back in 1876, when the Chicago White Stockings topped the National League with a 52-14 record and the poor Cincinnati Reds (9-56) finished dead last.

Australian Rules football wasn’t far behind, with football in the UK, American football, cricket and basketball some of the professional leagues that would follow around the turn of the 20th century.

It is a fact of life that sports will have a pecking order and is the reason elements such as player trades and annual drafts have been introduced.

Which brings us to the fledgling AFLW competition.

Launched in 2017, it had eight teams that all played seven matches each. Brisbane topped the ladder with six wins and a draw and lost the inaugural grand final to Adelaide.

Fremantle and GWS propped up the ladder with one win apiece.

Over time the competition has expanded and improved, with four teams winning flags to date led by Adelaide’s three titles.

While the Crows have been the dominant side of the competition to date, they have also had their moments near the foot of the ladder.

The Sydney Swans had a winless debut season from 10 games last year, but are much more competitive in 2023, with the draft and recruiting helping them win three of their seven matches to date.

It is widely accepted that playing the top teams is also one of the best ways for lower-ranked teams to improve in any sport.

Unless, that is, you are West Coast coach Michael Prior.

In his third season at the helm, Prior has coached the Eagles to just four wins in total, including one from seven matches this year.

Prior seems to feel the AFLW draw should be manipulated to ensure top teams don’t play lower teams.

This is what he said on Sunday after his Eagles suffered a heavy 11.16 (82) to 2.0 (12) defeat to reigning premiers Melbourne in Perth.

“Yeah, tough result. I thought we started OK. Our first half, our pressure was right up there,” Prior begins in his post-match press conference.

“But, at the end of the day, that’s the team that won the Grand Final last year against the team that finished (third) last.

“With 18 teams in the comp and only 10 games, how we play that team is beyond me.

“That’s what you get when you get fixturing like that.”

There are now 18 teams in the competition and it was agreed between the players union and the league a 10-round competition will be held this year, with an expanded fixture to be introduced at a later date.

Outgoing AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said last month key metrics need to be met for the AFLW to keep expanding.

The season is slated to increase by one week to 11 rounds in 2024, before moving to 12 rounds for at least two seasons with the possibility of an increase to 14 in 2027.

The Eagles can hardly complain about a lopsided draw.

Thus far, the West Australian club has played teams that finished 12th, 9th, 14th, 18th, 17th and 11th prior to taking on premiers Melbourne.

Not surprisingly, there was a brutal reaction to Prior’s comments on social media.

“How dare they fixture my terrible team against a better team”, wrote one user on X. “Have a sook Michael.”

“This is beyond embarrassing,” wrote another. “If @WestCoastEagles were serious about the female program they’d pull the pin on Prior.

“This playing the victim, whingefest needs to stop.”

“How dare they make us play a team that is better than us?” asked a third sarcastically.

Prior did at least get one supporter among all the criticism.

“He’s right though,” they wrote. “Every team should play every other team at least once.”

We really don’t think that’s the point for now.

Sure that would be great in an ideal world, but this is a fledgling competition that has preferred to expand gradually.

We’ll leave it to Robin Hunter to have the last word in our tweet reply of the day.

“Siri. Show me whining.”

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