Another weekend of footy, another week of absolutely deplorable spectacles.
Thirty-six players around the contest, constant ball-ups and throw-ins and 10-12 goals on a clear day is enough for a team to get a (relatively) comfortable win.
Then there’s the basic skill errors and the even more deplorable goal-kicking, but that is an article for another day.
Is this what our great game has come to? A combination of rugby union mauls, kicking the ball backwards and every player chasing the ball just like the Auskickers do at half-time?
Well sadly it appears to be the case. But fear not, here are five radical ideas that may help to improve the spectacle of AFL.
Players are not permitted inside the centre square until the ball has initially cleared the area
This idea would merely involve extending an existing restriction, namely only four players from each side are permitted inside the centre square until the ball has been bounced. Under this rule, the restriction would remain until the ball has initially cleared the area.
This would free up space in the centre and reduce the likelihood of repeated ball-ups in the centre. The limitation of the approach is that is does not solve the fundamental problem which is congestion in general play, particularly near the boundary lines and deep inside 50.
Kicking backwards is automatically play on (except inside the attacking 50)
This rule would aim to discourage players from trying just to hold on to position by kicking the ball 50 metres away from their attacking goal. The exception would apply to kicks inside the attacking 50 so players are still able to dish off to teammates who are in a better position.
This may be relatively straight forward to implement but again may not solve much. Currently when a player kicks backwards they are usually kicking to a teammate who is 20 metres in the clear. Therefore a play-on rule may not provide a solution.
Free kicks when the ball goes out of bounds
Moving into line with soccer and the rugby codes, a new rule could be introduced that stipulates when the ball goes over the boundary it is a free kick to the opposition, regardless of whether the ball was put out of bounds intentionally or not.
This would strongly discourage players from seeking the ‘safety’ of the boundary line in general play and force players to look for more central options when kicking the ball up the field. It would remove the contentious deliberate out of bounds rule, often a source of confusion and frustration for players and fans alike.
The major drawback of this option is that it would greatly disadvantage defenders. A possible way to lessen the penalty would be for unintentional out of bounds to be handballed back into the field of play. Deliberate out of bounds and out on the full would still constitute a free kick
Further reducing the interchange cap
This would simply involve reducing the existing interchange cap of 120 per game down to say 100. This would cause greater fatigue in players, thus opening the game up, particularly in the second half of the match.
A reduction in the cap could be offset to some degree by removing the increasingly unpopular substitute rule and reverting back to a standard four-man bench. The problem with this approach is that it may lead to more injuries and in isolation does not solve the problem of congestion and repeated stoppages.
Designated player zones
Finally, the most radical and most problematic idea would be to take a leaf out of the netball playbook and have three designated zones (the forward 50 arcs and the centre) that players must remain in at all times.
The zones could be split under a 6-12-6 format or alternatively you could allow a certain number of players from each side (say two each) to have free reign on where they can go. This would open the space up, reduce ball-ups and throw-ins and may eliminate the infuriating situation where a team on a fast counter attack has to hold the ball up because they have no one up forward to kick to.
It would also be funny to watch players desperately trying to avoid crossing their respective lines.
The major problem with the rule is that it would be a nightmare to administer and officiate. Interchanges and injuries would also throw a spanner in the works. Games would almost certainly need more umpires (spare me) and possibly multiple interchange zones. Players may also have to constantly change jumpers as they move into different zones.
So there you have it. What are your thoughts, Roarers? Which ideas (if any) have merit? What other ideas could be introduced? Or should we follow Paul McCartney and “Let It Be”?