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The Roar



AFL rules are hurting the game

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Roar Rookie
24th July, 2020

AFL is one of the hardest sports in the world to umpire.

Not many other sports in the world require their umpires to cover such a large field and interpret different rules.

But the game has officially become over officiated.

On Friday night, the Richmond and GWS match was a perfect example of this. These two teams were last year’s grand finalists, but the game was boring and nearly un-watchable.

The most obvious issue is in the game is the holding the ball rule. It feels like this rule has been called more in the last two weeks then it was all of last season.

Players are now being penalised for being first to the ball, which is the opposite of what junior footballers have been told for years.

The only way to avoid being called holding the ball is to hit it constantly, which looks ridiculous. Anyone with a footballing brain knows that the player doing this has no intention of that ball getting out.

I understand that the AFL wants a free-flowing game, but their umpires do not need to go searching for holding-the-ball frees.

If a player gets a ball straightaway and has both his arms pinned by the tackler, there has been no prior opportunity and no incorrect disposal. Why does this keep being called holding the ball?

Patrick Dangerfield

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

It is not all the umpires’ fault though. Why does the AFL feel the need to change rules in the middle of a season?

No other sports do this.

A rule was changed for an entire competition because one coach complained about how his team was not being rewarded for tackles. Rather than review the officiating of that game, the AFL chooses to change the rule for everyone.

Not one fan is happy with this change. It is meaning the whistle is being blown every minute.

Another issue with the officiating of the game is the obvious throwing of the ball. Countless times this season players are clearly been seen throwing the ball and no free is being called.


Umpires cannot be excepted to see everything and things will always be missed, but this rule should be one of the easier ones to officiate. If a player has one arm pinned in a tackle and does not manage to kick the ball, there is no way that they could have disposed of that ball legally.

While it may seem like I am just talking down the game’s umpires, this is not the case. They are simply officiating the game as they have been told to do by those above them.

One rule that needs to be fixed, which is out of the umpires’ control, is the score review system.

How often are score reviews actually overturned?

It feels like nine times out of ten, the result is umpire’s call.

On Thursday night, Gold Coast player Wil Powell attempted to touch a kick that was going to be a Bulldogs goal. As the ball travelled across the line, viewers were unsure as to whether Powell managed to get a finger to it. Powell showed great sportsmanship, turning to both the goal and field umpire, telling them he did not touch it.

But the umpires still went to a score review. Why was this necessary?

Umpire Ray Chamberlain gestures during the round 18 AFL match between the Western Bulldogs and the St Kilda Saints at Etihad Stadium on July 23, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.

(Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Former St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt had the same thoughts.

“If a player is going to say I didn’t touch it, do we need it (the review)?” Riewoldt asked during Fox Footy’s coverage of the game.

Yet the umpires still went to the score review and the decision was a goal – the umpire’s call anyway. It all just seemed like a big waste of time.

Finally, one of the most ridiculous rules in the game has to be the nominate ruck rule. During Thursday night’s contest, there was a throw-in inside the Bulldogs’ forward 50. Yet because no Bulldogs player nominated, Gold Coast’s ruckman was able to go up and simply palm the ball down to one of their midfielders.

Not only does it look awful, it just feels like another rule that does not serve a purpose. If a team has a third man go up, punish them then, but do not punish them because a player did not put their hand up. It is an AFL field not a year ten classroom.

AFL is such a great game, but right now it is getting harder to watch. Currently, there are too many unnecessary rules.

Let’s just put the whistle away and let the players play.