Contributed by: Wesley Hull
Each year football’s highest authorities make changes to rules. This is nothing new, nor is it sinister. Whether it is for safety, aesthetics of the game, improve speed of the game, selling a wholesome package to parents of kids, keeping sponsors happy or…God Forbid!...just plain common sense, rules will always be reviewed and changed.
This is NOT the fault of umpires – though they take most of the heat for doubtful decisions. This is an issue of rules and always has been. It just appears that the levels of frustration amongst fans is now higher than previous years.
But that doesn’t help the purists on the couch, at the game or even on the field when some changes just make no practical sense. To that end, here are some of my most contentious rule changes, either because I don’t personally agree, they are frustrating for spectators or they are simply useless.
1. The Gary Rohan Rule – brought in seven years ago to outlaw actions like those of North Melbourne’s Lindsay Thomas to stop players sliding in with their legs to a contest. Rohan’s ankle was broken, but as it stood then, Thomas did not do anything wrong – just careless.
However, since then the rule has been dramatically changed to include any body contact below the knees. The biggest problem with this is it flies against everything I was taught as a player to be prepared to get my head over the ball and be first to the contest. There are many players being pinged – at all levels – for doing nothing more that the instinctive attempt to beat an opponent to the ball.
By all means, outlaw the leg slides – it is dangerous. However, this is a contact sport (when I last checked) and there should be nothing wrong with a genuine low level, hard at the ball contest.
2. Deliberate Out of Bounds – Here is another rule that really is quite mad when not applied in the spirit for which it was intended. There is a clear difference between a player who is seeking to “find touch” and someone just trying to hack a ball down the line and away from opposition players.
The very nature of an oval ball creates unpredictability, so when a player tries to kick down the line to clear a line they are not necessarily trying to get the ball over the line. In fact, there are cases where players simply kick to open spaces and rely on their runners to collect. It is often a better option than kicking straight down the corridor, which is often congested, and risking a turnover.
Supporters can often see, through the glory of television’s elevated nature, when a player is kicking for touch and when a player has just misjudged a kick into open spaces.
To be sure, umpires make decisions based on the rules as they are written, so maybe the issue here is a wider interpretation of deliberateness.
3. Video Score Reviews – Oh, hee hee!, haa haa!, ho ho! – I’ll just leave that one right here…!!! Other than to ask why we no longer accept a goal umpire's decision.
4. The Selwood Rule – Yes, Joel Selwood has perfected ducking. Yes, others have followed his lead. Yes, umpires have to decide what actions were instigated by the ball carrier or the tackler. Agree on all fronts.
However, how often do we see the whistles put away when players cop high contact? Not every player taken high when shrugging a tackle is doing a “Selwood”. My own instincts told me to duck or shrug to avoid the tackle – NOT to milk a free kick. Like the “Rohan Rule”, the “Selwood Rule” is assuming the worst intent in all players and creating a massive hypocrisy in the process by questioning whether or not the head really is sacrosanct.
5. Ruck Contest Nomination – Putting your hand up is usually the accepted means of asking a question or permission to go to the toilet. It seems juvenile that a player has to nominate to contest the ruck. Surely, the responsible response here would be to see that a team’s ruckman isn’t ready so another will take their place.
Again, a rule created to kill of the third man up, but surely an umpire can see when a team has used a third player in a ruck contest and pay a free against them accordingly. We don’t have to be telling grown men and women to obediently put a hand up for permission.
6. Hands In The Back – this rule is straight out of the theoretical world rather than the real world of one-on-one footy. Forever, players have jostled for position and used their strength to win the contest. It is hard to see why there are rules to take out one of the greatest aspects of the game – a contest. Sure, a full-on push in the back should be treated as such, as should high contact.
I can even live with the jumper grabbing being over the line. But a straight out show of strength should be just that, and often is. It is when a free kick is just plucked out randomly that fans get frustrated. Let the combatants combat, and only penalise when unfair means are obvious. But let’s not be so pedantic about a contest, especially when hands might be used to gain purchase rather than being an unfair contest.
I could probably go on, and certainly invite further comment. But, I can certainly see two things clearly: Rules need to be looked at and written with greater clarity and flexibility so that umpires can make fair decisions. Also, fans are frustrated at attempts to “sanitise” our game to the point where we are removing many of the great aspects of a contest.
Finally, don’t get me started on how we barrack and the place of booing. Racism, sexism and prejudice should always be outlawed, rightly. However, I do firmly believe it is every supporters right to “hate” the opposition for 100 minutes and express that view. Some of the funniest, cleverest and creative lines ever created come from footy matches.
We must be careful not to remove the elements that make the game fun and enjoyable for all.
NB: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of World Footy News.
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