Changes make game prettier, faster, says Dangerfield
AFL trials of ideas to improve the aesthetic of the game worked in making it faster, prettier and more open, drawing strong support from players union president Patrick Dangerfield and his delegation who thrashed out rule changes with the AFL this week.
Starting positions for players at stoppages and doubling the size of the goal square for kick-ins had an immediate and beneficial impact on opening the game up, Dangerfield said.
The Geelong champion along with Adelaides Rory Sloane, Jamie MacMillan from North Melbourne and Hawks veteran Shaun Burgoyne thrashed out options for change with the AFL in a meeting on Thursday. They discussed a raft of options the AFL is looking at including: starting positions for players at stoppages; four umpires; doubling the size of the goal square; cutting rotations.
The quartet was shown video of a training session that Hawthorn ran at Etihad Stadium on Saturday when they trialled some of the changes in match-simulated conditions. The most contentious was having starting positions at stoppages, which would require a team to have three forwards and three defenders inside the 50 metre arcs at any stoppage.
Dangerfield was an enthusiastic supporter of the change based on what he saw from the Hawthorn trial. “I really liked the look of it, I think it really does open up the game,” he told Gerard Whateley on SEN. “We were able to see the differences between how it teams structure up now and then the starting positions and it is a far more exciting game.
“It opens it up, there are less players around stoppages, less congestion and you are able to move the ball more freely so it is certainly something I think we should consider.”
Dangerfield likened the change to watching football in 2005 with Chris Judd breaking from a pack and finding clear space instead of a wall of players. “You had more space to be able to execute your skill which made the ball movement far freer,” he said.
“In the vision we watched it was roughly three players playing closer to goal at both ends of the ground so it is certainly something that I think has merit.
“It was a more free-flowing game, a prettier game, more kicking, less congestion less fumbling … it was really clean it was nice to watch.”
Dangerfield admitted there needed to be more work and more testing with other clubs.
Players were concerned the rule change applied common sense with a mechanism for dealing with a player running to get back into his 50-metre arc. They did not want to hold the game up longer by waiting for players nor have “whistles going off all the time” with umpires penalising players just out of the arcs.
Among the changes discussed was increasing to four field umpires and a doubling of the size of the goal square (to a rectangle), which meant taking the kick in from 20 metres in from the goal line, both of which appear most certain to be introduced for next year.
Doubling the distance from where the kick-in was taken from nine metres to 18 or even 20 metres would return the kick in to the point it was taken when the game originated more than 100 years ago. “That really opened up the ground because all of a sudden you could move it freely because it is such a large area of space to try and defend as a defending team,” Dangerfield said.
The players were presented Champion Data statistics that verified that it was twice as difficult to move the ball from one end of the ground now than it was ten years ago.
“I think by increasing this there is potential to open up the game and to help with more scoring and defences probably arent going to enjoy it but I dont think people always watch defence.”
The players also discussed reducing the interchange rotations but Dangerfield said the starting positions change would obviate the need for a further cut to rotations.
The length of games was not discussed but Dangerfield said his personal view was games should be cut to about 100-minutes – or by about a quarter of the total duration – which would open up more potential for scheduling more games off shorter breaks of five and six days without impacting players.
Michael Gleeson is a senior AFL football writer and Fairfax Media's athletics writer. He also covers tennis, cricket and other sports. He won the AFL Players Association Grant Hattam Trophy for excellence in journalism for the second time in 2014 and was a finalist in the 2014 Quill Awards for best sports feature writer. He was also a finalist in the 2014 Australian Sports Commission awards for his work on Boots for Kids. He is a winner of the AFL Media Association award for best news reporter and a two-time winner of Cricket Victorias cricket writer of the year award. Michael has covered multiple Olympics, Commonwealth Games and world championships and 15 seasons of AFL, He has also written seven books – five sports books and two true crime books.
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