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Untouchables versus 9s : Lions win at Castlemaine


While 9 aside footy has been a crucial vehicle for Australian Football on the international front (where availability of grounds are limited and regular local comps use a more achievable team size), in Australia it’s been far less well recognised. For a time the AFL has dabbled with ‘Rec Footy’; and last year re-launched it as ‘Cadbury 9s’ (or AFL 9s). For regular followers of the game the notion of the game's ‘untouchables’ were put forward a couple of years back and people were challenged to consider what was ‘untouchable’ about the game.

An oval field?

18 aside? Or the 16 of the old VFA for a period? This discussion has been had again in recent days on Melbourne radio (SEN in particular) due in no small part to the role of the rules committee and Kevin Bartlett. What are the non-negotiable’s? There's now talk of a 'charter' as reported last Friday (by Patrick Smith - a regular guest of Bartlett on SEN) - see Visionary charter to manage evolving changes to AFL rules.

Kevin Sheedy in 2011 spruiked AFL 11 aside .

For now, variations on Australian Football are largely a side show. There are certainly some local leagues even in Victoria that have less than 18 aside on the field. The Omeo Football League as an example runs 16 aside with no reserves sections. In this case, declining rural populations in a very remote part of the state is a key factor.

However, 9 aside is a perfect format for pre-season or one off lightning premiership style tournaments. And having returned from the Castlemaine Masters 9s tournament held recently at Chewton, I can vouch for the fun as well as the fitness challenge of the format – and aside from kicking a little too wide on occasion and falling foul of the straight sided boundaries; the game play is footy as you know it.

And why not have a 'footy light' format? If we look at Rugby Union that has the Rugby 7s variant that far from being a bit of a laugh; has being elevated to the Olympics. Rugby League is perhaps less removed from its original parent of Rugby Union than for example T20 cricket is from its original parent of long form cricket.

And so back to the notion of Australian footy 9s. Does it break any of the ‘untouchables’? If an oval with 18 aside is deemed untouchable – then perhaps.
But - where do the untouchables start from? Taking an extreme view - a perusal of the original 10 rules of the Melbourne Football Club (May 1859) show that while the captains no longer decide upon the distance between goals – we do at least still toss a coin for choice of end (although there is no ‘kick off’); and that a goal MUST be kicked fairly between the posts without touching either of them or any person. This is to me an untouchable - never allow a goal to be deflected in like in soccer, or permitted off the inside of the woodwork as in rugby.
The notion of a kick in after the ball goes ‘behind’ goal is retained – however, a point has been awarded now for well over 100 years for instance of the ball passing between what was originally a ‘kick off’ post and the goal post. Those 4 posts though are still in place - be it a 'kick off' post or a 'point post'. Perhaps that needs to be untouchable.
We still have a ‘mark’ for a fair catch, and while there was the 'little mark' in fashion for some time, the extension of the distance travelled requirement by the ball is perhaps a fair tweak given the improved quality of ball manufacture as well as improved ground conditions.
While hacking was illegal from the outset; it didn’t take long to outlaw tripping and limit pushing. The ball though CAN be lifted from the ground, but, certainly should still not under any circumstance (in play) be thrown.
The rule that I was reminded of watching the NAB cup is rule 9. That when the ball goes out of bounds (and importantly the phrasing was NOT goes ‘into touch’ as was the norm in the English schoolboy games of the day); that it be thrown in at right angles to the line from where it crossed.

To me – this should be an untouchable. Granted – we accept ‘out on the full’ as a variation to the original rule. However, the spirit of the game seems to be defeated when ‘last team touching’ is applied to direct a free kick rather than a boundary throw in. Such a rule would make our game more like others rather than more like itself. To me – this is a greater attack on the essence of the game than is a limit on the number of interchanges in a quarter or a strict or otherwise interpretation of ‘hands in the back’.

My impression then is that the 9s format for footy is fair dinkum footy. And for the record, Melbourne Masters (the Lions) won the day going undefeated into the finals after also winning the event in its inaugural year in 2012. The challenge then is for more 9s tournaments to take place in Australia. Or 11's or 12's or whatever. What I’d love to see would be for some country pre –season tournaments that might allow previously merged clubs to once again ‘fly the flag’ in this footy light format.

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Untouchables versus 9s : Lions win at Castlemaine | 4 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Untouchables versus 9s : Lions win at Castlemaine
Authored by: Harley Vague on Thursday, March 07 2013 @ 11:00 am ACDT

I get angry when people describe 9s as some sort of special football played on a "rectangular field". The field is still marked out as an oval all-be-it not a classic oval and the game presents itself as football with lesser numbers. It's great for everybody except semi-pro types.

I don't see many things as untouchable, in fact some changes are desirable from an outsider's point of view in that it makes the laws simpler and more consistant or more attacking. So if a ball goes through the goals it's a goal - simpler, easier to umpire and promotes attacking football. If a ball is kicked out it should be kicked in - simpler and promotes attacking football. 10m "square" replaced by a 15m "box" umpired like a mark - much simpler for umpires and players and re-nforces the 15m measurement. I'm not a great fan of the currenet kick-in laws as they are sloppy and inconsistant with the notion of "legal disposal".I am a fan of the return to fair contest in marking and now rucking in AFL but the lack of congestion in 9s makes that a little irrelevant.

I guess what is untouchable for me is the general notion that any player can attack the ball, gain possession of the ball, run a little,then dispose of the ball and then gain a free kick by marking the ball or by executing a tackle on a player with posession..of the ball.

Most of the "recent" law changes are cosmetic or an attempt to keep the core of the game flowing. Whilst the execution of these changes has drawn some criticism the intent is simple. . .

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Untouchables versus 9s : Lions win at Castlemaine
Authored by: Wesley Hull on Thursday, March 07 2013 @ 11:42 am ACDT

Some rules at national level are being attacked, often when not necessary. I truly don't see an issue with unlimited interchange, yet the powers that be want it restricted. Ok, but it really doesn't change the core of the game which is the application of the skills unique to the game.

At lesser levels, however, these changes are really not as big of an issue. many clubs would give an arm and a leg to have enough players for unlimited interchange. It is only an issue relative to the situation.

As for the concept of 9's footy, i'm hooked. My second season of this form finishes next week and I miss it already. I love the lesser numbers and the don't care that the playing area is rectangular. Why? Because as a kid we all grew up playing in any available padock with whatever kids we could find. That is the real grass roots...where the love comes from. The organised school and club footy on ovals with 18 a side came later. To me it was the running, kicking, goals, points, tackles...not the 18 a side or ovals that got me hooked.

I had a recent conversation with someone trying to convince me that anything less that 15-18 a side wasn't real footy. "Bollocks" was my intellectual reply. They had obviously not been out there running around in the 9's format to appreciate that every bit of the fun, excitement, skill use and teamwork was there...just different. The quicker 9's formats (or any reduced number or venue formats) are recognised, the better for our whole game as it opens up markets that might otherwise never get off the ground.

Chatting with the guys from Toulon in France the other day and they are absolutely proud that they have 4 players and ONLY need 5 more to constitute a team. To me, that's how it should be.

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Untouchables versus 9s : Lions win at Castlemaine
Authored by: Michael Christiansen on Thursday, March 07 2013 @ 02:55 pm ACDT

On some of the forums - people trying to discredit Aust Footy overseas often start with "is it 18 aside on ovals".  They generally know the answer beforehand - because, one thing the world lacks for all it's population is a decent supply of cheap ovals!!

What I noticed playing 9s (and this was Masters) - was that in reality, the game changed less than you might say that 15 aside Rugby Union changes compared to Rugby 7s which in game play is an almost entirely different beast.  There's obvious reasons for that - chief one being basically the same size field - - so, reduce players by half and you have a running game more so than a tackling game.

The thing that I've had to correct a few people on already is that "No, it's not 'touch' footy".  Although, the AFL Cadbury 9's that has been promoted across 2012 IS touch footy.  So, natural confusion.  There's a place for each - as there is a definite 'touch' footy market and in NSW and QLD this has been very, very big and sometimes in national participation numbers followers of RL have tried to claim those people listed under 'touch footy'. 

Back to untouchables - I liked how the interchange evolved gradually over the years, first a 19th and then 20th man as subs - then interchangeable - but, then the move to 4 fully interchangeable happened very quickly - and I thought much of the reason was for injury cover.  Granted at the time - midfielders egos still told them that the bench was where you got 'dragged' to.  The new fashion of rotations, a quick rest, get back out there - is good, especially at lower level footy where people no longer sit on the bench for 3 quarters almost hoping a team mate gets injured or dragged just so they can get on the paddock.

However, onfield rotations were such a feature of the game for so long and perhaps a greater force in variety of body types on the paddock at any given time??

For now though too - the attack on stoppages is effectively an attack on the player diversity.  Stoppages are okay - it's what makes ruck work an art form, and ruckmen valuable rather than just a tall extra midfielder.  It's what makes in and under players so important.  I'm from the school of thought though that umpires tend to let the play go on too long to create ugly stoppages.  Just get on with it.  Call a ball up, get in, get it done.  Teams will only have so much chance to 'set up' - but, then again, there's only so many chances to ever 'set up' for a set play and it's nice to have the odd set play able to be attempted.  Kick outs being one - as a full back, the kick out is a critical tool to be well used.  And if the clock doesn't start until the full back connects with the ball - - then, how is it timewasting???  (as compared to waiting for the ad break flashing light to stop flashing!!!!).


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Untouchables versus 9s : Lions win at Castlemaine
Authored by: Harley Vague on Thursday, March 07 2013 @ 04:02 pm ACDT

From my experience 9s is more intense football than the traditional game. Half area, half the players double the contact and no place to hide

IMO interchange laws and umpiring interpretations are just fine tuning just like coaching tactics evolve.We have seen some realatively minor law changes to maintain the appearance of the game. Hopefully we don't have to resort to major distortions like zones or not rewarding marks kicked backwards.

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