Herald Sun

PAY THE PRICE

Footy has tripped it­self up - now the time has come for a rad­i­cal re­sponse

- DAVID KING

CUE the hys­te­ria. Cue the easy whack spe­cial­ists. My twit­ter han­dle is @David_King_34 and I am not ex­pect­ing many pos­i­tive re­sponses to this ar­ti­cle, but it must be said — the AFL game has lost its way.

The “she’ll be right” Aus­tralian ideal is to close our eyes and ig­nore the fact that stop­pages have taken over. AFL teams de­fend so well from a set, struc­tured po­si­tion that it’s ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to score af­ter a stop­page win. There­fore scor­ing has plum­meted.

The rules com­mit­tee has failed us. The sub­sti­tute didn’t work and will be gone be­fore we know it.

The ro­ta­tion cap is a slap with a wet let­tuce leaf on curb­ing the play­ers’ abil­ity to con­gest stop­pages around the ground and be­come in­volved in a rolling mass of play­ers in one quar­ter of the field. Con­tin­u­ous football was the rule com­mit­tee’s brief and right now we couldn’t be fur­ther from it.

It is time for a rad­i­cal rule change con­sid­er­ing we have the low­est scor­ing for 50 years and the most stop­pages the game has seen.

A change of the mag­ni­tude of the cen­tre square in 1973 — which in fact started as a diamond — or the out of bounds on the full rule in 1969, iron­i­cally in­tro­duced be­cause teams were wast­ing time boot­ing the football 30 rows back with im­punity.

I don’t be­lieve any­one who has tried to of­fer up op­tions for dis­cus­sion has the per­fect method or an­swer, but we must en­cour­age and brain­storm be­fore a sum­mit at sea­son’s end.

A sum­mit that needs the coach­ing lead­ers such as Alastair Clark­son, Nathan Buck­ley, Ken Hink­ley and Ross Lyon, types who un­der­stand the tac­ti­cal pros and cons of any al­ter­ation or change.

Here’s my plan: I be­lieve we need to erad­i­cate bound­ary throw-ins be­tween the arcs. Con­tinue to throw the ball in in both 50m zones, but not along the wings.

The last team to touch the football be­fore it crossed the bound­ary line would be pe­nalised with a free kick to its op­po­nent.

It isn’t bul­let­proof and there will be cases where teams will be un­lucky but five to 10 in­ac­cu­rate or un­for­tu­nate free kicks ver­sus 50-60 bound­ary throw-ins that kills 10 min­utes of game time is a small price to pay.

The ar­gu­ment that ruck­men and their se­lec­tion would be jeop­ar­dised is non­sense. We have more third man/fourth man-up jumpers over the top of the des­ig­nated rucks than ever.

Tac­tics that try to sti­fle the in­flu­ence of Nic Nai­tanui and Aaron Sandi­lands by run­ning two pairs of rucks and block­ing the most dan­ger­ous op­po­si­tion ruck are ugly and deny these supreme tal­ents the chance to ex­ploit their craft.

The Port Ade­laide-Colling­wood bat­tle last Thurs­day was in­tense. It was tight but it had more than 140 stop­pages, in­clud­ing 62 mid-zone bound­ary throw-ins.

The av­er­age stop­page con­sumes 10-11 sec­onds. So we lost about 10 min­utes of game time whistling the ball out of play and hav­ing it re-en­ter the field.

A VFL game last week­end be­tween Casey and Port Mel­bourne had more than 200 stop­pages. Los­ing more than 35 min­utes of game time is com­plete non­sense.

The AFL av­er­age is to score from only 15 per cent of mid-zone bound­ary throwins. Why do we need them?

Coaches would ad­just if we saw fit to re­move them and the 50-year scor­ing low we’re en­dur­ing (85.7 points per team) might start head­ing in a more at­trac­tive, com­pelling di­rec­tion.

The safety of the bound­ary line must be re­moved. Teams choos­ing the low-risk, low-re­ward op­tion ex­it­ing their de­fence wide must pay a penalty.

About 40 per cent of all AFL ball move­ment from the de­fen­sive end is wide, close to the bound­ary

But what would hap­pen if that was cut by 10-15 per cent? Surely more scor­ing for both teams as turnovers are pun­ished and those that get through the op­po­si­tion press or weight of num­bers ben­e­fit from at­tack­ing ag­gres­sively through the cor­ri­dor.

I miss Gee­long at its best! Where is Ger­ard Nee­sham and his rad­i­cal, in­no­va­tive hand­ball over­lap game?

I’ve never seen a mid-zone bound­ary throw-in on the high­lights reel and it brings noth­ing to the aes­thet­ics of AFL. Keep the ball in con­tin­u­ous mo­tion, pay more free kicks and let the play­ers play.

How long be­fore fans turn off? How long be­fore footy be­comes a TV game be­cause you sim­ply can­not see what’s hap­pen­ing in tight at stop­pages, as has hap­pened in the NRL.

We can wait and see if coach­ing or tac­ti­cal in­no­va­tion will cor­rect the prob­lem, but how long do we wait? Three years? Five?

We all know only Hawthorn and West Coast av­er­age more than 100 points a game, but did you know five teams av­er­age fewer than 75?

In the past five weeks only 16 times have teams hit 100 points in a game — that’s three on av­er­age per week.

We run the risk of turn­ing kids off go­ing to the footy.

Rev­o­lu­tion­ary change is re­quired. More than that, it’s in­evitable.

The last team to touch the ball be­fore it crosses the bound­ary line be­tween the 50m arcs would pe­nalised with a free kick

 ??  ?? Forc­ing de­fend­ers such as Rich­mond’s Alex Rance to keep the ball in play rather than seek the bound­ary line would keep the game flow­ing
and make it more at­trac­tive.
Forc­ing de­fend­ers such as Rich­mond’s Alex Rance to keep the ball in play rather than seek the bound­ary line would keep the game flow­ing and make it more at­trac­tive.
 ??  ??

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