Four-time premiership coach Alastair Clarkson feels the same frustration many fans do at the current congested state of the game and has called on the AFL to act.
Clarkson declared Hawthorn’s four-point win over North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Sunday “a terrible spectacle”, with few positives beyond the four premiership points.
Like many others in recent years, certainly this season, the contest got bogged down in slow, unimaginative ball movement, with overpopulated stoppages making for a difficult, albeit close, contest to watch.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has urged coaches to play a more attractive, high-scoring style, but Clarkson believes a simple instruction to umpires from head office to reward the tackler will do the trick.
“The umps are doing what they’re told to do, what’s coaching got to do with it?” Clarkson said.
“We teach our players to tackle and if a player doesn’t dispose of the ball correctly then the rule book says to blow the whistle and play a free kick.
“At the minute the seagulls (players) are all going after the chip but if there’s incorrect disposal (free kicks) you watch the seagulls spread.
“But the seagulls aren’t spreading out any more because we’re just not paying the free kick, yet we’ll do one for tiggy-touchwood ruck or marking infringement.
“But they won’t pay the ones for holding the ball.
Clarkson was at a loss to explain how his team laid 69 tackles against the Roos and didn’t receive a single tackle-specific free kick.
“What’s happened to our game? You can’t have that many tackles and not one of them be incorrect disposal,” the coach continued.
“You wonder why the game is an arm wrestle and that you can’t get any open footy.
“Tonight’s game… if that’s the spectacle that we’re trying to search for in our game, then our game’s in a dreadful space.”
Geelong coach Chris Scott, after his side’s three-point win over Melbourne, said that reducing teams from 18 to 16 players on the field would clearly reduce congestion.
Clarkson used the Cats-Demons game to illustrate his point.
“The AFL can’t be happy,” he said.
“Two goals each (at halftime) on a beautiful winter’s day? No rain and it’s Geelong and Melbourne, who I both think will play finals this year.
Clarkson urged the AFL to move away from its desire to protect the player making a bid for the ball rather than reward the tackler.
“I’m sorry for shit-canning our own brand, and our own club and our own team in this space,” he said.
“But I was so disappointed in the way we played and I was so disappointed with the way that the game is being played right at the present time.
“It’s frustrating, and it must be frustrating our fans.”