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