New AFL rules are confusing and a blight on the game

Round One of the 2017 AFL Season is done and dusted, but it is abundantly clear that three more rule changes introduced over the off-season have done more harm than good to the game. There were various examples over the weekend that showed how by altering interpretations of rules has asked an umpire to go inside the mind of a player and taken any sort of hope of stopping an attacking play away from a defender. The game cannot sustain such a change and if Round One is anything to go by, throughout 2017 we are in for confusion galore.

Deliberate rushed behind
In Adelaide’s game against GWS on Sunday afternoon, defender Daniel Talia and forward Jonathon Patton were both running back to goal. Talia elected to punch the ball through the goal line from just outside the goal square. Under the new rule interpretation, this is now a deliberate rushed behind, given the distance  the two players were from the goals and as a result the forward gets a shot on goal. I am not sure what else Talia was meant to do in that situation. You have to give the defender some sort of chance at stopping a goal. In this case, it was simply a contest between two quality players going for the ball. A contest Talia happened to win, but as a result, he was punished. Sure by all means, if a player is under no pressure and miles away from goal, pay that as a deliberate behind. In that case there is another option. However, if it is a genuine contest between players, that is not a deliberate act, it is the defender doing all he can to stop his goal. Or in other words, his job.

Deliberate out of bounds
This rule has been tightened up further in 2017 and is now pretty much last touch. If a player kicks for space and it happens to drift out of bounds, despite that not being the sole intention of that particular player, it will be paid as a free kick against. This again is ludicrous, because you are asking umpires to get inside a player’s head and attempt to work out what he was thinking. There are times in a game of AFL where a ball will go out of bounds, because it bounces at a funny angle, or skids along the ground. This is not intentional, but how is an umpire meant to know that? Boundary throw ins have been a part of the game for a long, long time, why are we trying to remove them completely? Again, if a player has plenty of other options and elects to handball or kick straight over the line, pay that as intentional, but otherwise, throw it in. This rule and that of the deliberate behind have been brought in to encourage the ball to stay in play and create more contests. Over the weekend, the way it was being interpreted is actually going to kill a contest, because it give such a huge advantage to the attacking player.

Third man up
Only in the AFL would they have to create a rule within a rule. We saw during the JLT Community Series an example of where a player gets accidentally hit by a throw in, but who happens to not be the designated ruckman. This was paid as a free kick against. In the last couple of weeks, the AFL have said that going forward, if it is obvious that a player was not going up for the ruck contest and is hit unintentionally, that this would be play on. We now though, as seen over the weekend have seen confusion reign with umpires as to who is the designated ruckman and the subsequent nomination process is taking too long. There were also a series of poor boundary throw ins that meant that the ball did not even reach the ruckman. If a throw in does not make it as far as it needs to, it must be recalled. As embarrassing as that is for the boundary umpire. Nominations need to be clear from both players and umpires, because AFL games do not need to be going for any longer than they need to. Perhaps these are just teething issues for this particular rule, but it needs addressing if it lingers beyond the next few rounds.

The AFL have this constant fascination with altering rules and making it so frustrating for players, umpires and fans to keep up. The game is in good shape, but it is beggining to lose some of the quirks that make it so great. We are asking too much of umpires, which is leading to an increase in poor and confusing decsions. There does not need to be constant changing of rules. It is arguable that these rule changes will even achieve what they are designed to do. So often we see a rule change made that requries a follow-up rule, that then requires a further follow up rule. I fear that more alterations involving zones, last touch and holding the ball are to come in coming seasons. We have simply had enough. Leave the game alone.

Picture – Fox Sports

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