Chris Scott floats radical AFL change after taking fresh swipe at scheduling 'mess'

The Geelong coach has proposed a mid-season AFL break.

Geelong coach Chris Scott has urged the AFL to follow the lead of top European football competitions and have a mid-season break as a way to ensure fixture equality and also give players a much-needed break. The introduction of the Opening Round to the AFL calendar has created headaches in 2024, with greater fixture inequality than ever before.

This season some clubs had their second byes before other clubs had one, with the Cats being one of those seriously impacted. Geelong kicked off their campaign in round one against St Kilda and had their first bye in round 13, while the likes of Brisbane, Sydney and GWS had all had two weeks off by that stage. And Scott says things need to change ahead of next season, stating "this year has been a mess".

Pictured Chris Scott left and Geelong squad right
Geelong coach Chris Scott wants to see the AFL introduce a mid-season break. Image: Getty

"There has been a lot of discussion around how the competition could evolve. I think one of those things that is generally on the table is an industry shutdown throughout the middle of the year," Scott told reporters on Thursday.

"The best holidays are when everyone is away. When footy is still going, you can’t be completely switched off from it all. I love the idea of talking about these things. I think everyone who has looked at it logically would come to the conclusion that this year has been a bit of a mess, so it will be different next year, there is no doubt about that.

"I think in principle, I am supportive of it (industry shutdown). The reason the Christmas break is the best is because everyone is off. You can take a break in November but it’s not the same because stuff is still going on."

Scott’s proposal would align with the model seen across several European football competitions. Italy's Serie A and France’s League 1 both have winter breaks in their scheduling. While in Germany's Bundesliga, the competition pauses for several weeks in the middle of winter as well. Known by locals as ‘Die Winterpause’, the extended break allows players to get some much-needed rest and to undergo any minor procedures to see them fit and refreshed for the second half of the season.

The Cats face off against the Blues in a Friday night blockbuster in round 15 and the club will be boosted by the return of star player Patrick Dangerfield. Dangerfield has spent the last eight weeks on the sidelines after injuring his troublesome hamstring for the second time this season.

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But Scott says Dangerfield won't be held back, declaring the "shackles are off" his captain. "He's ready to go," Scott said of Dangerfield on Thursday. "We've wanted to get him back so he can just play his normal role. The shackles are off."

Geelong's Dangerfield was said to have recovered from his latest injury setback quickly but he was held back to ensure he didn't do any additional damage to his troublesome hammy. "The last half of his time out from playing has been built around his conditioning program and making sure that when he did come back he was ready to perform really well," Scott said.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 27: Patrick Dangerfield of the Cats leads his team out onto the field during the round seven AFL match between Geelong Cats and Carlton Blues at Melbourne Cricket Ground, on April 27, 2024, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Patrick Dangerfield will return against Carlton on Friday.

"The question mark is, when a player's been out for a while, what their match conditioning is like. That's obviously hard to get when you're not playing, and touch and things like that. But in terms of his physical conditioning, he's in really good shape and has done a power of work." Zach Tuohy and Ollie Henry also return as the Cats (8-5) seek to reignite a stuttering premiership bid, which has stalled with five defeats in their past six games.