Am I not pretty enough? The AFL needs to look in the mirror

Aligee Roar Rookie

By Aligee, Aligee is a Roar Rookie

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24 Have your say

    Generally speaking, top-end – or even Western Australian – football is more open, faster and arguably more skilful than the Victorian or Tassie style of the game, which traditionally was played on wetter, colder, smaller grounds and was a far more physical.

    It was said for many years that Victoria Park was too small, which is why Collingwood lost so many premierships as they were found out on the wide-open expanses of the MCG in September, when the weather was better and more running, open football won the day.

    There is almost a zealot defensive mentality that many coaches bring to AFL football – parking the bus, zones, filling up space, flooding back, defensive plans – that come from basketball, football and probably other areas.

    Which brings me to my point.

    I would describe myself as a football purist. I hate seeing a rolling, Auskick-type maul, where you can see 30 players around the ball. At least in Auskick or junior footy the umpire tells players to get out and back to position.

    Ask Fremantle fans what they think of for their side’s strangulating game plan under Ross Lyon, and they don’t care as long as they win, but many football lovers see it as boring, slow, offputting and ugly.

    Likeiwse, the worst games of football I have seen were St Kilda under Lyon years ago – a dog’s breakfast at best.

    Meanwhile, top-end football is exciting, open, fast and unstructured – what footy is meant to be. I have seen some top-end footy where – happily – a ball up was rare.

    The unbelievable fitness, extra interchange, increased tackling and lack of set positional play has changed the game in ways that many find unpalatable. Perhaps AFLX is a counter to that, which will see an open, fast game. This is not to say that all AFL games are defensive, overly structured and over coached, they aren’t, but many are.

    Having said that, many people find low-scoring, defensive, gruelling, methodical contests fascinating and point to football and rugby as proof of popularity.

    So do fans care about the style of game their team plays, or just about winning? The tribal nature of the game leads me to believe that most have a win-at-all-cost mentality, which is normal human behaviour, but is it conducive to growing the game?

    Does the slow decline of rugby in this country, despite a growing world presence, provide proof that ugly, maul-type games lose their popularity when in competition with games that attempt to provide the opposite and can change the rules as easily as the AFL does? When AFL was first played in Sydney in the 1880s, rugby actually changed some rules to counter it – impossible to do now, as there is a world body.

    Is it just the AFL’s job, as the self-proclaimed keeper of the code, to ensure the game is attractive, or do the clubs and coaches have a responsibility as well? Should the game be attractive to watch anyway?

    Does the football community need an attractive open game? Should a free-flowing, open game be an imperative?

    For that matter, should the AFL be the keeper of the code or should an independent body control that?

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    The Crowd Says (24)

    • Roar Guru

      January 6th 2018 @ 5:11am
      The_Wookie said | January 6th 2018 @ 5:11am | ! Report

      Clubs and coaches are the reason for the condition that gameplay currently finds itself in, specifically countering flooding tactics, the “rolling maul” and similar things. The AFL is trying to keep the game free flowing and leading to much criticised rule changes designed to keep the game free flowing, but are foiled at every attempt by coaches who want to bog the game down. Its about winning ugly, even as their clubs need people to watch.

      The problem with appointing an independent party as keeper of the code is that the AFL will simply ignore it – much like the VFL did with the NFL before the VFL simply took over the NFL in the mid 80s.

      Bear in mind that not only does the AFL Commission run the AFL itself, but it directly controls state football in every state and territory except WA and SA, and both those states are reliant on AFL revenues (whether its at their stadiums or their clubs) to survive in the future. Theres simply no one to stand up to the AFL Commission any more.

      • January 6th 2018 @ 8:28am
        AR said | January 6th 2018 @ 8:28am | ! Report

        Wookie is right about the AFL.

        In terms of playing style, Coaches will always mimic, or try to better, a winning style.

        The 2013 GF saw ultra-defensive Freo play ultra-skilled-attacking Hawthorn. The Hawks won and the game trended toward a more speedy attacking style, thank god.

      • Roar Guru

        January 6th 2018 @ 12:56pm
        Cat said | January 6th 2018 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

        Sorry but not all the blame belongs to coaches. Some goes to the umpiring. Pay incorrect disposal instead of allowing players to drop the ball and you won’t have 15 players playing stacks on.

      • January 8th 2018 @ 10:53am
        Aligee said | January 8th 2018 @ 10:53am | ! Report

        Yes good comments and would agree with the point about an ‘ independent body’

    • Roar Guru

      January 6th 2018 @ 12:59pm
      Cat said | January 6th 2018 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

      If this article was written two years ago I’d have agreed with you. However, last years rule changes got rid of the majority of the ‘rolling scrums’. I can’t recall anyone complaining about the game last year.
      Were there some poor games? Yep. Always will be no matter what rules, fixes, changes etc you bring in.

    • January 6th 2018 @ 1:56pm
      Vocans said | January 6th 2018 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

      Almost any game of footy, from youngsters to the AFL has its own style of interest. Sometimes I’d be hard put to nominate an AFL game as a better experience than down the local park. Certainly, it’s always a pleasure to see Top End footy, especially when the Tiwis are up and about.

    • January 6th 2018 @ 2:07pm
      Lroy said | January 6th 2018 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

      debate on congestion has been done infinitum.

      Most pundits agree its caused by umpires not awarding ” holding the ball’. Players are consistently caught red handed, drop the ball and the umpire calls ”play on”, which drags more players into the congestion.

      Pay the ‘ball” frees and open up the game.

      • January 6th 2018 @ 5:57pm
        Johnny Dalmas said | January 6th 2018 @ 5:57pm | ! Report

        Yes, yes, yes! Holding the ball interpretations are the biggest blight on the game.
        I wish we could just keep it simple: if you don’t corrctly dispose of the ball on when tackled it’s a free kick.
        I watched some old State of Origin games and some old WAFL finals on YouTube not too long ago and one thing that really stood out was that the umpires were quick with the whistle with both holding the ball and calling for a ball up.

        • Roar Guru

          January 6th 2018 @ 6:55pm
          Cat said | January 6th 2018 @ 6:55pm | ! Report

          The problem is with ‘prior opportunity’. If a player is judged to have had ‘prior opportunity’ the rules do state a player must either handball or kick it. How does an umpire judge a player has had ‘prior opportunity’? Who knows, no where in the Laws of the Game is ‘prior opportunity’ ever defined. That is the issue.

          • January 6th 2018 @ 8:59pm
            Tricky said | January 6th 2018 @ 8:59pm | ! Report

            Nail, head! This is exactly the issue and why we see what is perceived as incorrect disposal. I know it is head scratching but it is very difficult to adjudicate and then add in the umpires vision etc tends to become very grey. On top of that coaches and strategists will use these grey areas to “advantage”. How do we fix it? Dunno, reckon if I could nut it out that’d be above my pay grade.

            • Roar Guru

              January 6th 2018 @ 10:58pm
              Cat said | January 6th 2018 @ 10:58pm | ! Report

              The easy first step would be to define what ‘prior opportunity’ is. Without a definition, everyone is going to see it differently.

              • January 7th 2018 @ 10:03am
                Lroy said | January 7th 2018 @ 10:03am | ! Report

                Prior opportunity means just that. You had a chance to dispose of the ball BEFORE you got tackled. If you get tackled the same instant you take possession you didn’t have prior opportunity…. so its a ball up.

                Everything else is holding the ball!!

                If it was never defined its because everyone knew what ”prior opportunity” meant.

                Get caught, get hurt was always the mantra at my old club. So don’t get caught.

              • Roar Guru

                January 7th 2018 @ 11:28am
                Cat said | January 7th 2018 @ 11:28am | ! Report

                If only it was that simple. It isn’t. I have seen countless times players, I would judge to have had prior opportunity be told there was no prior after being tackled.

              • January 7th 2018 @ 11:47am
                Lroy said | January 7th 2018 @ 11:47am | ! Report

                Cat, you’ve actually answered your own observation.

                Umpires are not rewarding the tackler… I don’t know why…. but that’s the problem in today’s game.

                Tackling is a distinct skill same as kicking, marking etc and its an integral part of our game. Back in the day, guys would get picked purely because they had a bit of mongrel and were really good at laying a tackle.

                Fast forward to today and it seems a player has no reason to release the ball at all.

                A player caught with the ball can simply shrug their shoulders and two things happen,

                a.) they drop it cold, so its a ball up…or
                b) The tacklers arms slip high and they get a free.

                Pay the free, open up the game.

              • Roar Guru

                January 7th 2018 @ 12:43pm
                Paul D said | January 7th 2018 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

                I think the umpires are under instruction to keep the game going where possible – they don’t call ball ups for a dropped ball either if they judge the player didn’t have prior, they just call play on

                I think the pace of AFL makes for a different definition of prior opportunity than you would find years ago or in state/local leagues too. They’re trying to strike a balance between players having a second or two to make a decision on what to do with the ball so the football played can be a bit more tactical then just pure instincts, while also rewarding tackling players.

                Is congestion really that bad anymore? I don’t recall it being as bad in 2017 as it was in previous years.

                Winning ugly will always trump losing pretty.

              • Roar Guru

                January 7th 2018 @ 4:14pm
                Cat said | January 7th 2018 @ 4:14pm | ! Report

                Umpires are not rewarding the tackler… I don’t know why

                I believe it is because every umpire has a different interpretation of what constitutes prior opportunity. And even that interpretation varies from game to game and within games. The easiest solution would be to define what prior opportunity is then everyone starts from the same baseline which would provide more consistency.

              • Roar Guru

                January 8th 2018 @ 10:59am
                Paul D said | January 8th 2018 @ 10:59am | ! Report

                You have been banging on about this for years Cats.

                “define prior opportunity”

                How do you define something that is a combination of space, time, and observation, and occurs over the space of 1-2 seconds? You either have to have a hardline time based definition of a couple seconds, which would be damn near impossible for the umpires to judge – or alternatively, keep it as it is, where the umpire makes a judgment call as to whether or not the player could have disposed of the ball before they were tackled.

                Moreover, it’s pretty obvious that if a player gets tackled while they’re still in the window of “opportunity”, they can just drop the ball and it’s play on.

                Surely you have worked all of this out by now. It’s what makes your continued insistence prior opportunity needs a definition so baffling because the fact you’ve called for it for years without ever offering a solution means you must have worked out how hard it is to have a concrete, repeatable, definition of it.

    • January 6th 2018 @ 2:21pm
      Gyfox said | January 6th 2018 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

      Collingwood won several premierships 80 years ago, playing on Victoria Park. Now they train & play on an MCG size oval…..& don’t win!

    • January 6th 2018 @ 8:29pm
      DrWildare said | January 6th 2018 @ 8:29pm | ! Report

      Whoever said Victoria Park was to small, actually needed their eyes examined. The MCG’s dimensions are 171m x 146m Although initially it was 172.7 x 149 In contrast Victoria Parks Dimensions were and are 175.5m x 141.7m so it was essentially the same area although slightly narrower. This compared favourably to Princess Park, the Western Oval which while long was very narrow, and Subiaco which while 188 metres long is only 134 metres wide. In theory these narrow boundaries would lead to more not less congestion.

      The dimensions at Subiaco, should lead to less skilful play rather than the more skilful that you claim. Perhaps in the future you will ensure the facts you are relying on actually support your argument.

      • January 7th 2018 @ 11:44am
        Aligee said | January 7th 2018 @ 11:44am | ! Report

        Collingwood extended its ground in 1983 after GF losses in 77,79,80 and 82, my own father and his mates who had been going to the ground since the 1920’s repeatedly bought up ground size as an issue since the 1960’s in conversation about Collingwood performances in September.

        Not sure of the ground dimensions pre 1983.

      • January 8th 2018 @ 10:52am
        Aligee said | January 8th 2018 @ 10:52am | ! Report

        I did a bit more research and it appears the ground was extended over 10m by the Ranald McDonald admin, and yes that is his real name, from memory owner of the Age newspaper at the time, around 1983, it was probably extended at the dights falls end or Trenerry cres, for anyone who knows the ground, the thinking at the time was to make the ground the same size as the MCG – a bigger ground where Collingwood was found out in September

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