Those in positions of power at AFL House are criticised heavily when they do something wrong, so it is only fair we acknowledge them when they do something right. Finally, the league is going to come down on a group of players no one likes – the stagers.
This season will see players fined for faking, or accentuating, contact.
A first offence will draw a reprimand, while a second offence will see the player fined $1600. A third offence will attract a fine of $2400.
While many, including myself, may like to see a one-match ban for a third offence, this move is a step forward and the league deserves a tick.
Australian Rules Football was never going to be like soccer – a sport where players, it appears, stage for fun.
We didn’t want that.
But it was important to knock the issue on the head before it got out of control. Players are often looked upon as role models for the younger generation of budding AFL stars.
We don’t want staging filtering down to junior levels and even local suburban competitions.
There will be players who will continue to try and bend the rules – even at AFL level – but the message has been set and the standards have been spelt out: play for a free kick and expect a penalty.
There are not many things that make the ardent fan in the outer more frustrated than a free-kick to an opposition player who has, obviously, staged.
AFL players, in the past, have admitted they do it. Some may still get away with it, but Big Brother is watching.
This new rule will help the umpires, because players, more than likely, will attack contests without the thought of accentuating contact in the hope of gaining a free possession.
The game is very difficult to umpire today, due to the varied rules. Umpires, I believe, will breathe a sigh of relief that players will, finally, be answerable for their actions regarding staging.
But the umpires need to also be aware of what is and isn’t classified as staging.
Past players and commentators should be happy with the move, as well as the fans. It should be a win-win for all.
In the past, supporters have encouraged the AFL to let the game be and to leave the rules as they are.
But when it is in the best interests of the league, and the game as a whole, we should support such changes.
This change is necessary and a big tick goes to the AFL for applying common-sense.