K rock Football

AFLX Critics missing the mark: Danger

Bolts captain Patrick Dangerfield. (AAP Image/James Ross)

LEADING players have urged critics to have an open mind about AFLX but it remains to be seen whether fans will embrace the pre-season exhibition.

The AFL has been offering free and discounted tickets for Friday night’s stand- alone event at Marvel Stadium and has declined to release a crowd estimate.

A Marvel Stadium spokesperson said sales were “tracking well” and a solid walk- up crowd was expected.

Last year’s AFLX debut was played across three nights in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide with every AFL club required to field a team.

About 22,500 fans attended the Melbourne event.

The concept has been revamped this year to feature four all-star teams, captained by Patrick Dangerfield (Bolts), Eddie Betts (Deadly), Jack Riewoldt (Rampage) and Nat Fyfe (Flyers), playing at the same venue on one day.

While the star power has increased, it remains to be seen whether fans will embrace the hit-and-giggle concept which this year features a designated “game changer” with the power to earn double points for the final five minutes of each game.

The eight-a-side games will feature minimal contact, while players have been encouraged to engage in on-field banter and “express their personalities” by choosing their own pre-game outfits.

Geelong star Dangerfield on Thursday said he had been bemused by criticism from former players and commentators.

“It’s been interesting seeing just how many negative articles there has been and the personal opinion of those journalists,” he said.

“It (AFLX) is not aimed at them, it’s aimed at a younger demographic.

“I’d encourage having an open mind towards it. We’re really excited about it.”

No injuries were reported during last year’s tournament but AFL clubs remain wary of the concept.

Hawthorn duo Luke Breust and Isaac Smith were drafted to play in the Rampage team but have instead opted to take advantage of a four-day break at their club.

Hawks teammate Chad Wingard and Port Adelaide’s Robbie Gray are among seven others who have withdrawn citing injuries.

Flyers captain Fyfe said the exhibition should be clearly distinguished from the regular-season games.

“This is fun, this is for the kids,” he said.

“The colours are bright, the names are a bit funky. Have a good time.”