On the eve of the 2012 season, many Aussie Rules enthusiasts are saying to the AFL: “if the rules ain’t broke, don’t fix them!”
Accordingly (and fortunately), the rules for 2012 are basically being left alone with only strict crackdowns on deliberate out of bounds and ruck contests highlighted as areas of focus.
Much can be said for the heavily criticised football operations manager Adrian Anderson. Over recent years, Anderson’s work as chairman of the laws committee with AFL greats Kevin Bartlett and Leigh Matthews have sparked fierce debate among the AFL community on why we changing and adapting laws which have been in place for over 100 years?
Looking from the outside in, most people would be assessing the immediate impact of such changes imposed on our game over the past five years. Most notably the illegal contact in marking contests and the advantage rule are certainly thorns in many peoples sides, which many believe has somewhat destroyed the game we love.
I too fell foul of the rule changes, finding myself throwing my hands up in the air, wondering why on earth the umpire had blown his whistle for a basic marking contest.
However, there is a side to the rule changes put in place by Adrian Anderson which paints a far brighter picture for the game.
There is certainly no doubt that our game has evolved and many AFL minds certainly love to pinpoint the strategy change on the then Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy. His ‘time wasting’, ‘backwards kicking’ and ‘flooding’ brought an element to the game never seen before.
This meant coaches had to adapt and change game play, tactics and strategy. In 2010, Mick Malthouse and his love of history helped Collingwood adopt a modern-day twist on the box formations of Roman Legions and the bold tank assaults by the Germans employed in World War II to create turnovers in their forward half.
The point is the game has changed and will continue to change. What we can only call ‘brave’ moves by Adrian Anderson are keeping our game interesting and exciting.
Anderson and his team’s contribution to the game can be measured in statistics. There has been an increase in long kicking, contested marks and scoring which has no doubt added excitement to the game. Clearance rates, especially late in games has increased. There has been a decrease in the number of disposals, handballs, short kicks and backwards kicks.
Surprisingly soft tissue injuries decreased in the year 2011.
Many key players including Chris Judd, who was against the sub rule implemented by Anderson and his committee, now advocate its brilliance.
Overall, the change is making games fairer to teams who get a player struck by injury.
Only time will tell the impacts of the overall trend, and then we can only truly determine the success of Anderson’s laws committee. But for now it looks like they are doing the right things for our beloved game.