“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
This Andy Warhol quote is most likely framed and hung on every wall at AFL house, including those inside the lavatory. They are words heavily preached by Demetriou and his rules committee cohorts it seems.
For them, the image and spectatorship of this great game we play is a never ending beast to tame, but one that must be at all cost. The question isn’t whether change is needed, but what is wrong in the first place?
It is absurd that a sport as ingrained into the Australian psych as Australian rules is, and with it’s abundantly rich history, that fundamental rules could be changed without public, player or club constituency. Let alone it being changed at a rate faster than an Australian spin bowlers life cycle in India. This year will be the 50th rule change since 1994.
Take for example the new tripping rule. Going in feet first into a contest is dangerous in anybody’s book and it should be deemed illegal – as was the case last year.
When Gary Rohan broke his leg in round 4 2012 to a dubious incident involving Lindsay Thomas’ feet slipping while gathering the ball, the general consensus was that it was an unfortunate accident that might have happened in any contact sport. However, to the rules committee there are no such things as accidents. Only realistic alternatives… which, if you think about it, oftentimes are not very realistic in a game played at break neck speed.
You can argue whether the new rule is a knee-jerk reaction, but the AFL doesn’t care much for outside arguments. A complete blanket ban on tripping has been introduced this season worded, as is vogue at AFL house, in grey.
‘Any forceful contact below the knees of an opponent will result in a free kick’.
So far we have seen the effects of this rule take place in the NAB cup and already there are elements that perplexes. Seeing players with their heads over the ball after getting to the ball first penalised because he has gone in harder in congestion doesn’t sit well with me. This is a fundamental of the game of which the dynamics are quite important. Winning the hard ball fairly.
With recent rules in place, it is almost statistically more beneficial to get to the ball second. Coming in second means you are not in danger from being penalised by the scatter-gun holding the ball rule or the now introduced nanny-state tripping rule. In fact, you’ll be the beneficiary of it.
It is hard to place your trust in a ruling body that seems so out of touch with the intrinsic nature of the game. Especially when, in an attempt to shorten the game in 2006 they shortened the quarters from 25 minutes to 20 minutes, but with different time-on measurements. The result? The average length of games went from 117 minutes in 2006 to 123 minutes last year. Not a ringing endorsement.
This year’s other new rule- the ball up, incidentally, is not really a new rule at all but something they used to do as recently as the 80’s, early 90’s. Check some youtube footage and you will see the umpires are not dawdling after a pack forms. They ball it up straight away, giving little chance for players from either team to set up. This is an effective and proven tool to combat congestion. So was the rule 40 years ago to introduce a centre square to keep out all but 4 players from each team. Simple.
The interchange cap flagged as ‘a law already passed’ to combat congestion by Demetriou to be put into affect next season is definitely not a simple solution. In fact, who even asked for it? Does any punter really have a problem with the amount of interchanges a team makes,? The question is why would you commit to introducing another rule in a year’s time before seeing how the 50th rule you have introduced in the last 12 years will impact on congestion.
Not only that but the interchange cap is a rule which is in essence there to slow the game down by tiring the players out. That would be fine except one would think most rules put in place recently were there to actually speed the game up.
Then again, I’ll admit to being a fool for expecting consistency from those running the show down there. Tragic for those of us who just want the show to go on… uninterrupted.