How The Footy Almanac saved football

The Footy Almanac has saved football.

The Richmond footy club almost saved footy a few years ago, but here at the Almanac we’ve done it properly.

The Tiges almost saved footy when they lost to Geelong by 157 points one Sunday evening in May, 2007. At a time when the Swans and West Coast had established a new orthodoxy, based on strength, fitness, and an ability to execute like a zombie, the Tiges gave the stamp of approval to the Cats cavalier, end-to-end style. And the rest is history. Thank God for Richmond. Thank God for Geelong.

But that was never going be a forever-saving. The Cats would get older, and the forces of evil were always going to fight back, determined to prove their version of truth was right. Ross Lyon was never giving up on his industrial and bureaucratic approach, which rendered individuals irrelevant and made roles and systems and processes central. He was twice runner –up using it.

And he has had his disciples. All of whom push the coach-as-all approach. (There’s a whole article in that alone).

That school of thought still exists. But it is now exposed for what it is. And The Footy Almanac has been instrumental in exposing it.

The Almanac community is diverse, and all views are welcome. However, a particular view of footy has emerged. Although there is the occasional Scrooge McKnacker who would rather bleed through the eyeballs than see a goal conceded, most Almanac discourse suggests an appreciation of a type of footy where the great players and teams have opportunity to show us what they can do with the Sherrin. Footy is about many things and performance is one of them.

In recent times fans have been driven nuts by elements of the footy being dished up. Nuts enough to write and talk about it. My brother David (154 games for Adelaide Lutheran in D5 ammos, not a great trainer himself, would always say, “We want the Darren Jarmans to have opportunity to shine. We want matches to be won on the basis of football skills, not on the basis of fitness.”

The most skilful have not necessarily been the most influential. Automotons have been as valuable as artists.

The main problem was very clear to some of us. Four interchange players meant high rotations which kept players at near peak performance. Grounds had been made small by the supreme fitness of the players, who could go at top pace while on the ground. Coaches knew that given these conditions players could defend space. They could sprint to their place in the zone, or in the set-up. The integrity of the zone was rarely lost as long as players were disciplined enough to maintain it.

In invasion games zones are hard to beat. In top-level US basketball zones were outlawed two decades ago. You couldn’t ban the zone in footy though.

There was an obvious solution. It was evident in the game itself. The classic games were those where players were so worn out they could no longer defend space. In the last ten minutes when the zone was lost, players had to find their opponent and stand shoulder-to-shoulder and then make the play or defend. Teams fell back in to traditional structures.

The solution was then to get the players into a physical state whereby they had to play one-on-one footy. This could be done quite easily: by limiting the interchange. To mimimise the moments of freshness.

Other sports had suffered the same issue. New rules and conditions had altered other sports in a way that hadn’t been anticipated and that was causing problems for them as well. Traditional rugby league was a balanced game. It was about big forwards dominating early, but as their bodies were battered and tired by the constant hit-ups, and the tackles they had to make, they slowed and the little blokes (like Alfie and Kevvy and Steve Renouf) would get their chance as the game opened up. That changed when unlimited interchange came in and coaches had (effectively) ten forwards in their pack instead of six. The NRL has since responded: it now has limited interchange, and may even wind it back further.

What would footy do?

Thank God for the Almanac.

Three years ago, at The Roaring Forties Lunch (the last footy function of the year), I found myself sitting next to Adrian Anderson, a very bright and capable bloke who shoulders the load of considerable responsibility. On the other side of him was writer, satirist and off-key singer Tinsel Tony Wilson. Conversation was lively. Inevitably it turned to the state of the game.

This was our big chance. Could we handle the responsibility? Fortified by the weight of Almanac opinion, a few beers, and the first shiraz of the afternoon, we went hard.

Footy was not in a good way. Four years of post-Brisbane frustration was released. The Lions success was built on a traditional approach to structure, and a traditional approach to method. Key defenders and backmen, a fleet of highly-skilled mid-fielders, and Martin Pike. Great footy.

We looked at what had happened since: weremembered the Wallace-inspired sides, the Clarkson zones, the fearfulness of mid-noughties Geelong. “You’ve got to do something Adrian,” I said. “This isn’t footy. This is a sensational game, if players have opportunity to play it. At the moment we are shackling them, limiting their opportunity to show how they can play the game. It must be driving them crazy, because the fans are going mad.”

“And it’s so simple,” I said, the Heathcote splashing in the gesticulation. “Tire them out. All you have to do is limit the interchange. That’s when the game loses its structure and you get the magnificent chaos that allows footballers and football to show what they are.”

A healthy debate ensued.

After a few more reds we were well and truly in the pantheon of footy philosophy.

There were so many good reasons to limit the interchange. The orthodoxy had spread its influence. The wannabe career coaches in charge of ammos and suburban sides were implementing the French theorists of the AFL so they could bang it on their resumes and offer white-board explanations at job interviews for bottom-feeding coaches’ positions. (Ahh, but once you’re in the system, the world is yours).

It was a terrific afternoon. Tinsel and I left feeling at least we’d had a chance to have something to say.

Now look: one less interchange player.

And what an effect this change has had. I saw St Kilda and Richmond as it turned in to a beauty in the second half on Friday night. When it looked like a classic game of footy footy. With blokes taking risks and getting the pill, beating an opponent and looking up to see a forward on the lead. Yes, on the lead. Not running into the open forward line. Although there was some of that as well.

I watched the Cats and Freo play a ripper on Saturday night. Exciting end-to-end footy with some moments of supreme skill from both sides. And errors from both sides (more from Freo).

Then I listened as Tim Lane and Tony Leonard called the cracking match from Sydney for 3AW. It reminded me of when I was a kid. The crowd going crazy in the background. The shrieks and screams of fans, as a tackle was made or a mark taken – or spilled. I felt it was 1971. And from a Swans kick out I was imagining in my mind: where is Mumford. Kick it to Mumford. And Tim called it, “Mumford.”

It was footy alright.

Yes, sides are going to have to adjust. The Almanac makes no apology for that. It’s a healthy adjustment.

But consider some of the possibilities: the dimunition of the role of the coach and the commensurate elevation of the role of the player; the re-emergence of the big bloke; the possible re-emergence of recognisable positions; the chance that Big Tom Hawkins may be suited by these changes; the need for players to think about pacing themselves across four quarters; and much more.

I think lots of good things are happening in footy. This was a brave decision from the AFL.

We have a lot to thank the Alamanac for.

Ed: Let us know what you thought of the footy in Rounds 1 and 2, and what you think of the three-man interchange rule.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au He has written many columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted j.t.h@footyalmanac.com.au He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo10, Anna8, Evie7. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. Dan Crane says:

    couldn’t agree more JTH – everything about this round was superb and a return to old fashioned values…..As i was eating fish and chips from the bag from the Broadway in Glenelg South to my house on Friday night I had a sense that the footy was going to be good and it was! The scene of Jack Riewoldt crawling up the stairs like a crouching tiger, itching to get on the ground EVERY aspiring footy player can relate to……one of my favourites — there is a lot to like about this lad.

    and that’s not to mention the other games, even the flogging of the suns had somethign 1980s about it!

  2. JTH – too right. I loved the weekend’s footy. Tigers and Saints very tense, Cats and Freo was a ripper, Bombers and Swans a great old fashioned tussle.

    What Heathcote red were you drinking? Duck Muck?

    In an open letter on this very site to our great leader, Julia, I stated that she need not spend squillions on a People’s Forum to resolve our nation’s problems, she only need attend an Almanac lunch or two. I suggest they implement an interchange system with a substitute rule in the Senate.

  3. John Butler says:

    JTH, Any suggestions on climate change while you’re on a roll?

  4. johnharms says:

    JB, my view is there should be less interchange insofar as climate change is concerned.

  5. John Butler says:

    JTH, I think Tony A would be happier with a high interchange regime. He seems more comfortable with, shall we say, more flexible positions.

    But does Ross Lyon do flexible?

  6. Phantom says:

    Climate change.

    Sea level rise.

    Flood.

    Don’t go there John(s)

  7. anson cameron says:

    Met up with JTH at half time at the G the other night when the Cats were toying with the Saints and I enlightened him as to certain sporting truths while he nodded in vacant deference. The man himself made no sense at all. Blathered on about this and that and unveiled a smorgasbord of dermatalogical imperfections he’d picked up over summer and shared with us some foggy homoerotic reminiscences from his youth, but nothing worthwhile on footy… the bastard. No hint whatsoever that he was hatching this black pearl of wisdom that proves him one of the great football essayists of all time. I feel like I’ve held forth on natural selection while sharing a bucket of chips with a portly bearded stranger later revealed as a fellow called Darwon or Darwin or somesuch.

  8. Andrew Else says:

    One difference between 1971 and 2011 for the Swans v Bombers game John….

    Pretty sure holding the ball wasn’t given if you actually got rid of it!

  9. Rick Kane says:

    On Sunday evening during the Hawks vs. Demons clash, Clarkson subbed Renouf, the Hawks ruckman for Jordan Lewis, a mid-fielder. Apparently Renouf had been concussed. Whatever, that substitution changed the game. Hale took over rucking and the Hawks had another speedster in the middle and up the field.

    Thank you Almanacers for the Hawks well deserved win and JTH for an insightful essay.

    Cheers

  10. Absolutely spot on JTH. Perhaps people have forgotten how close football came to extinction. Halfway through the third quarter of the Cats/Saints game this year, the world was ready to throw football in the wastebasket of life and never mention it ever, ever again.

    Tiredness from the three-man interchange ensued and the game was saved. :D

  11. Andrew Starkie says:

    Actually, North Melbourne saved footy in 2007. For we defeated Geelong rd 5 at the Cattery which prompted the Chappy led ‘cards on the table vent’ that inspired the 150 point shlacking of the Tigers the next week.

    And, while I’m at it, by winning flags in ’96 and ’99, we became the only ‘small club’ to win premierships since the ’70s (when we won them), thereby providing inspiration and blueprint for the likes of the Bulldogs and Saints to strive for premiership glory. Not that they’ve achieved it, but you know what I mean.

    Not sold on the sub rule. What’s the point of it? Put a cap on the interchange.

  12. smokie88 says:

    Hear, hear John !!
    All power to the Almanac.
    I think the sub rule is interesting, because coaches must decide when
    to use it and how to use it. As a necessity or as a tactic? And it will
    often be a decision over which they have no control.
    So far, I am in favour.

    As for the first two rounds: it looks as if there are any number of teams
    in the mid-table mix. Some exciting, close, hard-fought matches.
    Love it.

    And the Swans v Bombers game was an old-fashioned classic.

  13. John I am sure I am not alone when I say my life changed on that Sunday afternoon in May 2007. I remember saying to my Brother-in-Law (a mad league fan) that we’d better go to the pub and watch this (neither of us had pay tv) as something was going to happen. If the Cats lost, heads would roll. We spent the next 3 hours at the sports bar at Cazaly’s in Cairns watching the game with the sound down as the bar was majority league, exclaiming in disbelief as goal after goal rained down, and beautiful “pure football” was displayed. Did you write an article on “pure football” at the time? Unforgettable, an influence on the state of the game akin to Polly Farmers handballs. (maybe). I like what I’m seeing so far this year, definite fatigue and subsequent impact on game style, reserving overall verdict on sub-rule at this stage.

  14. brother David says:

    Not once in those 154 games in the ammos did I flood into defence or zone. This wasn’t because we didn’t understand the tactical advantage of such negativity. We just had too much respect for the game.
    Wasn’t the intention of interchange to allow the boys to grab a quit dart while reapplying tape to the chronic war wounds?
    Gary Ableet senior, Darren Jarman, Mick Nolan, Dermot Brereton. Would they zone? Who do the punters want to see play footy?
    Two interchange and two subs. Ten goal last quarters week in week out. That’s footy.

  15. #7 – Anson – I was standing right next to him that night and he did wince and mutter occasionally. Little grumbles like “Oh no, come on” and “That’s horrible”, but no indication of the imminent eruption. The bastard.

  16. Stainless says:

    I love the notion that the great game was saved from eternal damnation thanks to some passionate Heathcote red-inspired entreaties. I love the notion that the Luke Skywalkers of the Almanackery were able to win over one of the Evil Empire’s masterminds from the Dark Side. I love the notion that Geelong changed the game by backing skill, class and attack in the face of dour, defensive convention. I even love the notion that the hapless Richmond’s worthy impersonation of the Washington Generals that day in a small way contributed to the revolution.

    The killjoy in me, though, suspects the dumb luck principle at work. After the myriad random rule changes that the AFL has imposed on us in recent years, the dumb luck principle dictates that one of these changes must eventually have a positive effect. The fact that the stated objective of the interchange/sub rule – reducing speed-related injuries – is unrelated to the apparent benefit – the restoration of old style contested footy – just makes this theory more plausible.

  17. johnharms says:

    #7 Anson Cameron, It was a nice bucket of chips and while I seemed to be giving them a lot of attention it did diminish my capacity to understand your analysis of the match. The best thing about the second half of the match was that it gave no time for homoerotic memories. Will catch another match with you soon.

  18. johnharms says:

    #10 Susie, that game was lucky to survive the second quarter.

  19. johnharms says:

    #11 Andrew, you’re dead right. I refer to that R5 fixture as The Joel Selwood Game. He was magnificent. Lauded from The Terrace already. Easily Geelong’s best player, and most decisive leader, on the day.

  20. johnharms says:

    #13 G’day Scooter, It certainly was pure footy, and I haven’t stopped banging on about it since. I think the essay in the front of the 2007 Almanac was called ‘As it should be played’. I love other struggles as well, but that magnificent open footy was full of joy. What I don’t like is when the conditions of the code (rules and regulations) work against that sort of thing happening. I also don’t like the mantra: leave the game alone. Or the other mantra: the game will work itself out. That is illogical. Because it immediately assumes that any previous changes were good changes. Not all of them have been. I would say unlimited interchange wasn’t a good change because it placed coaches at the centre of what I think should be a players’ game.

  21. johnharms says:

    #14 Brother David, I’m not sure you ever had the inclination to flood, nor the willingness to dig deep to find a spot in the zone. You did, after all, choose student houses on the basis of whether the drapes and curtains were thick enough to keep your room dark until midday. Your explnantion of the origin of interchange has some merit.

  22. johnharms says:

    #16 G’day Stainless, All I can say is that Tinsel Tony Wilson and I were very clear under the influence of the Heathcote red when speaking to Adrian Anderson, which may work against the dumb-luck theory.

  23. Phantom says:

    JTH,

    you have just picked up a fair few stats.

    Off into the red jacket and let the game open up into a free flowing high scoring scrap.

    You’ve saved the game again.

  24. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    JTH,

    not sure if the Almanac has saved the game yet, but it has certainly given a voice to the fans who care about the history,culture and future of this great sport. The fact that it is a growing community will give it even more impetus in the future.

    I reckon that there have always been good and crap games of footy in any era. I like the one sub rule so far and I think it will give rise to more contests and open the door for the fates to intervene as fatigue takes hold during the season.

  25. smokie88 says:

    # 24: Phil, you are so right.
    We should not over glorify past eras.
    I sat through some shockers at Arden St.
    And Moorabbin.
    And the Lake Oval.
    And Windy Hill.
    And…..

  26. Brother David says:

    #21 Yes, but we could have held that altruistic position for the good of football. Would have made us old Lutheran ammos look good to the Almanackers.
    Since when have you been so concerned with the truth anyway?

  27. johnharms says:

    #26 Brother David.

    Good point re the truth, and a very public and salutary reminder.

    And I do like that floods and zones were eschewed by Adelaide Lutheran teams “for the good of football”. Altruism at that level (Div 5 ammos in Adelaide) must surely have an effect on all footy under the trickle-up principle.

  28. brother David says:

    #27 All the great revolutions in history have started with the metaphorical div 5 ammos.

  29. JTH #20 – I’m a bit of a “Leave the game alone” and “the game will work itself out” bloke. I don’t think this implies that the previous changes were all good changes, but what it does imply is that at some point we need to stop playing with the rules so the game has time to breath on its own. Its impossible to reverse everything that has been changed and it would be stupid to do so, but the “leave the game alone” idea is pleading with the game’s regulators to stop being so reactionary, to stop jumping on an issue as soon as it raises its head.

    There will be a constant need to review the game, but we should err on the side of patience over instant action. Most of the reason for the game’s current problems (rugby scrums, zones, endless tackles etc) have come about because the rules were changed with the intention of changing the final product, not with the intention of protecting the final product.

  30. johnharms says:

    #24 #25 #29 I agree that there have always been poor games. That is a different issue. This is about providing the parameters which give the best chance of good footy. This is about agreeing on what the essence of the game is, and ensuring that the rules in place, don’t work against that. There are many elements to the game – which I tried to explain in the AFL’s 150th anniversary history. We can identify them here, and that is where the debate would begin. And having agreed to that sense of the essence we could then look at the game as it is played at any given moment and ask, “Is that what the game is about?” If not, what is the problem? What is the solution? Unlimited interchange coupled with supreme fitness cahnged the game. It cluttered the game. It rewarded athletes rather than footballers. It made the coach more important (as various Almanac writers have pointed out). It allowed for startegies and tactics which were successful (in terms of the scoreboard and the ability for coaches to show their own worth), but not necessarily giving us a good brand of footy. That’s because some time ago THE DECISION WAS MADE to have unlimited interchange with four on the bench. That didn’t happen organically: it was a conscious and considered decision.

    To right this systemmatically, we need a logical approach. It starts with an agreement on what the game is. Then what some of the principles are (eg player making the play should be protected or whatever).

    I’m interested to konw what people see as the essence of the game. What I might do is pull out a chunk of that chapter, post it, and see if I was anywhere near the people’s mark. Later.

  31. Ian Syson says:

    JTH. I’m sure you’re aware that these arguments have been going on as long as footy has been in existence. Looking through the newspaper archive I’ve seen misty-eyed recollections in the 1930s about how much the game has changed since the 1900s for example. Sometimes I wonder if people who seem to be harking back to a better time are really remembering when they were kids and they had the imaginations that allowed the impossible and the fantastic to be part of a possible footy reality. Harking back to older times is really a cry for lost youth. You summed it up in Loose Men when you talked about the Chitty-Bang-Bang form of footy as opposed to the snarly, hard-nosed, pragmatic kind.

    “What is the point of footy?” you ask. To score more points than the opposition is the correct answer. All else is aestheticism in the face of competitive realities. If we don’t want our games to be competitive that’s a different matter.

    Take for example the tampering with the rushed behind rule. If you are 10 points up with 2 minutes to go, surely you have in effect earned the right to buy time by rushing through from the kick out if you choose. It is up to your opponents to do something about your tactics by manning up or whatever.

    I’m speaking here as an observer and not an insider so I’m happy to be contradicted. It just seems to me that changes to the rules in footy are guided by the rhetoric of the ‘spirit of footy’ as if it was once embodied in the technical way the game was played rather than it only ever being just a very important idea.

  32. johnharms says:

    Yes, Ian, I understand. The game always changes – no argument. But where those changes are as an unanticipated and unintended conseuquences of rules committee and footy operations committee decisions, the situation doesn’t necessarily have to be left to change itself. Especially if they are fork-in-the-road consequences. I see that as a simple point of logic, not even of footy logic.

    If footy is footy, whose footiness makes it footy, and European handball is European handball, and rule and culture changes make footy much more like European handball and not football, then, in my mind, there is a problem with those rule changes, else the footiness be lost. That’s why the starting debate which establishes the nature of footiness is key. What game do we want here? To the AFL’s credit, and to the credit of those elder statesmen who know and love the game (I am thinking of KB for example, Lethal, et al) this is the basis of their thinking.

    Cricket is facing this issue at the moment where T20 is an essentially different game to the game of cricket.

  33. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    JTH,

    when do you reckon the game was at its best and why?

    Coaches have always had an influence from Worrall’s day, and rules have often been tinkered with. John Kennedy’s Hawthorn teams made up for a lack of skill by crowding the centre, subsequently leading to the introduction of the square.

    Hafey and Barassi’s teams had the talent to play the long game.

    Robert Walls’ Fitroy huddle lead to the introduction of the 50 metre line.

    I agree that something must be done to overcome overly congested footy, but that might lead to more zoning and further compartmentalization of a code already stifled by structures and set ups. Kinda reflects broader society where ‘specialization’ and sticking to your designated tasks is the order of the day.

    Perhaps we should consider 16 per side on the field, two interchanges and two subs. That could open up the game and spread the talent pool.

    Yet footy has always been essentially about getting the ball and doing something creative with it on the way to goal. Malthouse coached the Pies to a flag because he finally realised this. Ross Lyon has yet to see the light and the Saints are suffering as a result.

  34. Ian Syson says:

    John, you’re in danger of being caught in a feedback loop. If footy is footy, when did it become footy and not some protean form? I’m sure there were people who thought the introduction of the oval ball and the removal of the kick off (and offside at the kick off) and the introduction of scores for behinds and so on all argued that the footiness had been lost. Just when did footy became footy? 1866, 1877, the formation of the VFL? Or is the game in a constant state of becoming? Your reference point for uberFooty needs to be established otherwise you have no basis for saying this or that “is (is not) footy”.

  35. johnharms says:

    #33 and #34. I use the term Footy being footy as a stylistic device. It is a way of describing the essence of the game. I don’t know what you think but I reckon footy is identifiably footy. It is not a rabbit or a cream bun, nor is it a game of soccer. I wouldn’t point to an individual moment. Nor do I need to. It was not identifiably footy in the 1850s, but when you look at the video of the 1909 GF it is clearly the footy I grew up with and the footy that we saw on the weekend. So somewhere along the way the essence developed as a result of many factors. The primary sources talk about the spectacular elements of the game – the high mark for example – they talk about the role of teams (especially Geelong) who were fit, well-prcticed, and could see the advanatge of standing away from the rucks and scrimmages, thereby opening up the play. Geelong won 7 flags in 9 years from 1877. Geelong was known around Australia as that wool town with the football team. And there was a sense that Geelong played creative open footy. Now I may be mythologising, but I have come across that in numerous places both secondary sources and in newspaper articles. There was also a sense that footy was a joy to play (and if you have ever run into open space and received a perfect 45 metre pass you’ll know what I mean) and a joy to watch.

    The better question is ‘What made footy footy. What is the essence of the game?” Because the community has rolled with that as the foundation of the code that has become part of the culture for 130 years. It has been tweaked. (Your Kennedy example supports my argument Phil). There have been arguments about aspects of it, and it is played reflecting the moment in time (bureaucratic footy in the age of process).

    So let’s sit down and commit to paper a description of that essence.

  36. Ian Syson says:

    The Geelong connection seems to me to be the right place to start. I’ve seen that stuff as well and it’s fairly convincing. Interestingly when you say “they talk about the role of teams (especially Geelong) who were fit, well-practiced, and could see the advantage of standing away from the rucks and scrimmages, thereby opening up the play” you could be describing the soccer revolution when Scotland taught the English how to play their own game. It seems that both games in this era are moving away from the bog of concentrated play in rugby.

    My (admittedly idiosyncratic) position is that while footy and soccer are not the same they are nontheless twins brought up apart in different physical and cultural environments and partly defined by their anti-rugbyness.

    On this connection here’s an interesting Argus report from 1896:

    “Geelong and Carlton had a fast game on the MCC ground, because both sides determined to play the British Association [ie soccer] game – no handling – as soon as the rain came, and it was marvellous to see the ball sliding and shooting everywhere as elusive as a greased pig, with the bulk of the players apparently never able to catch up to it, although the whole 40 were at times trying to do so”

    The reporter doesn’t mean they literally started to play soccer, just that the footy they needed to play was soccerish. On this point I’m investigating the history of the term “soccering” part of my overall project and my early finding are that you footy types have been soccering for quite a while now!

  37. JTH – your almost last comment that footy reflects the moment is very pertinent. Perhaps if we are criticizing “modern” footy were are really critiquing the wider society? Is that too much of a stretch?

    We seem to spend a lot of energy for not much result as a society – sounds like Saints footy to me.

  38. Ian Syson says:

    Reading the report further reveals:

    “The first quarter was fairly even and fast but in the second Geelong had a good deal the best of it and scored their only goal. Carlton getting their solitary one in the last quarter. A goal apiece made it a draw, with every appearance of a good game, until you glance at the behinds column, and note that Geelong scored 13 behinds to 1, and had very bad luck indeed in having to share the points when having so much the best of the field work. Taking it all through they had 19 shots for goal and Carlton 4”

    I wonder whether this was one of those matches where the argument for counting behinds in the case of a draw was strengthened.

  39. I shook my head in utter dismay when Ross Lyon was unwilling to guess the extent of Lenny’s injury because he didn’t want to “mislead the market”.

    If The Almanckers have averted the cyborg destiny, perhaps they could turn their focus to the ridiculous interpretations of the holding the ball rule. Bringing back more ball ups will let Sandilands and Cox rack up hundreds of hit outs, thus doing wonders to the success of my Supercoach team.

  40. Steve Alomes says:

    John is of course offering a variation on the view which I too endorse – too often it has been Geelong saving footy, eg in the 1960s after the Hawthorn tacklers of the early 60s and more recently after the Sydney floods.

    I have walked out of Sydney matches in those days, or at times just not troubled the turnstiles, or, in another milieu, changed channels.

    I am not normally immodest (I hope). However, while I did not save footy, I did provide the lifeboat that helped it begin its escape from the flood, in the tackleball and stoppageball article of last September – November.

    It was also a submission to the laws of the game committee.

    Next, we want a hydrofoil or a hovercraft to take us further from the flood and its new names (as someone once said ‘flee the press’.

    What we need is two simple rules which open up the game:

    one, 16 a side (as has happened in several forms of the game, from VFA to some juniors to some OS competitions – see WorldFootyNews);

    two, a minimum of six players from each team on each side of the centre (as whistled by the third umpire).

    That only leaves 24 or less players to fill up one pocket of the MCG, with most inside the 50 metre line.

    So that’s how I am working on the saviour role, although all I want for Easter is good open footy and Easter eggs. No need for concussions or other injuries.

    Stephen Alomes

  41. John, My suggestion is keep the four”reserves” and like the old 19th and 20th men, they stay on the ground, NO INTERCHANGE GARBAGE. That means teams have to conserve their” energy” for the whole four quarters with the existing cattle. How I long for the last quarter being played by teams that are both stuffed.

  42. Matt Quartermaine says:

    Couldn’t agree more John. Been waxing lyrical to my mates (may have been amber liquid influenced) that I love the substitute rule. A big complaint in round 1 from many football commentators and coaches was how Dean Cox cramped in the Eagles match. The solution is simple: if a player cramps he does what’s always been done… he slows down, he puts his hands on his hips and gasps for breath or he stretches his leg on the boundary fence. The coaches are also complaining they find it hard to work out the substitute. Tough titties for them I say, it’s what they get paid buckets of cash to do. Besides, we’re all too busy watching great games of football.

  43. Squeezebox Wally says:

    All well and good, Harmsey, but North appear to be playing like crap. Not helping us!

  44. Rick Kane says:

    Ted Hopkins, the guest speaker at the upcoming Almanac lunch expressed a view on the substitution rule change in his latest ‘Hopkins Report’. I read it on my Footy Lite application on my iPhone, which the Slattery Media Group operates. His Reports are always stimulating and this is no different. He says, “The new rule is reportedly responsible for nearly everything good and bad about football … at this rate, next on the list, I expect, will be claims it is impacting on global warming”. He proceeds, with compelling examples, to question the use and abuse of correlation data.

    He will be an excellent speaker and a timely resource to further entangle ourselves in what will be one of the debates of the year. With a full bodied red in hand, natch.

  45. Ian Syson says:

    Just to resurrect this thread, I found this interesting comment from 1895 (yes 116 years ago).

    THE TRIUMPH OF FORM.

    MELBOURNE DEFEAT ESSENDON.

    AN INFERIOR GAME.

    Popular opinion was correct in forecasting a victory for Melbourne in the great match of Saturday, but altogether wrong in the very natural assumption that the game would be one worth witnessing. As a plain fact it was a shockingly bad name – a painful proof that football has in some inexplicable way degenerated of late years, and that as now played there are too many men on the field or at any rate twice too many on the ball.

    Check this out if you want the whole article http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/9358880?searchTerm=%22inferior%20game%22%20football&searchLimits=sortby=dateAsc#pstart318201

  46. johnharms says:

    IS, Adam McNicol has found similar references in ihs research on 1904-05. It’s like that piece about modern students – written in 1053.

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