Jack Riewoldt’s application of Newtonian physics


I settled down to watch Richmond v Sydney on Sunday afternoon. The opening goal comes as Callum Mills is pushed across the goal-line by Jack Riewoldt, which is somehow interpreted as a deliberate rushed behind, gifting Richmond an easy first goal.


This is Callum Mills’ 2nd infamous rushed behind indiscretion, after the 2017 game against the Bulldogs where, after hitting the ball through the goals while in the goal square, his nearest opponent was judged to be not in touching distance, which was the rule interpretation back in 2017, as far as anyone could figure out.


The current 2020 interpretation is that for a rushed behind, you can’t ‘have any other option’ before knocking the ball through. We might wonder what was Callum Mills’ other option? As Jack used his full force to push Mills over the line with the ball, all Mills could do was surrender to Newtonian physics, which says that ‘between two interacting objects, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’. Mills protests that Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion also applies within the confines of the nine metre goal square.


A spokesperson from the AFL later announced that Callum Mills should not use Newton’s Third Law of Motion as a loophole to get around the Rushed Behind Rule, saying, “It’s not rocket science. It’s clear to everyone what the rules are.” A statement to which Daniel Andrews wholeheartedly agreed, adding, “I think that each of us know someone who has not been following the rules as well as they should have.”


Yet the umpires must have seen where this game was progressing and were trying to beef up the scoreboard if they could, for only six more goals were scored between both teams for the rest of the day.


For most of the last quarter, the scoreboard was atrophied, completely stuck at 32-17. Only one goal had been scored in previous 50 minutes of play. The scoreboard attendant had gone to find coffee, and even the guy charged with pressing the buttons on the fake crowd noise could not raise things above a low-level murmur.


It got to the stage where the TV commentators thought to start a philosophical discussion on why it should be that neither team even looked like they were trying to score.


I thought the move to a Socratic dialogue was genius on the part of the commentary team on a rain-soaked, melancholic afternoon, until they then tried to bring things back to the normal, lowbrow banality. I have a rule that, whenever a TV footy commentator says something inanely stupid, a penalty is called, commentary is put in the sin-bin, and the sound on the TV must be turned off for five minutes. It’s a mental health issue as I can sense the IQ of the population being lowered as they listen to Channel 7 commentary.


One commentator notes that Richmond aren’t trying to score, as they are 15 points up, and so don’t need to. To which the other commentator adds, “Well, Sydney needs to kick 4 goals to win this.”


Bzzz. Yellow flag thrown, penalty called, sound must be turned off. Time to allow some brain cells to regenerate. If the fake crowd noise (fake noise, as opposed to ‘fake nooz’, as one of our leaders terms it) doesn’t alert you that kangaroos have gotten loose in the paddock, then what of the primary school maths? The score has been stuck on 32-17 for the last ten minutes, and 3×6 is always 18, even in Newtonian physics. Does it take more than that time to work out that Sydney only need three goals to win this game in the time that remains?


For the record, Sydney do get three shots at goal in the time remaining, but were off target. Richmond kick 1.5 for the second half and their winning score of 34 is the lowest I can remember for a long, long time.


But I yearn back to the days when Channel 2 used to call the football on the TV. Their commentary team called the game like they were getting paid for the quality of their words, rather than the quantity, and only said something when it needed to be said.


My votes:

(3) Jack Riewoldt, (2) Isaac Newton, (1) the person who presses the button on the fake crowd noise (for keeping people interested.)


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About Michael Viljoen

Michael was born in the Nelson Mandela Bay area, the same as Siya Kolisi, the successful World Cup winning Springbok captain, but was raised in Melbourne with a love for Australian Rules. He has worked as a linguist in Africa with Wycliffe Bible Translators Australia, where he wrote a booklet on the history of Cameroon's Indomitable Lions, which was translated into several Cameroonian languages.


  1. Peter Fuller says

    A superb contribution Michael. I had the tv on for most of the 2nd half but was only watching intermittently. I hadn’t switched on at the time of the Mills incident occurred, but I did see an allusion to it in the Guardian comments. Your account of it seems precisely correct and is only exceeded in accuracy by your observations about television commentary, and your brilliant initiative for reacting to the inanities.

  2. Michael Viljoen says

    Thanks Peter. The Rushed Behind rule is farcical in every sense of the word. At least it helps bring an element of comedy into the game. Backmen appear genuinely confused about what they’re allowed to do when near the goal line. And it’s been like that ever since the rule came in.
    The problem is that the rule makers can’t say decide whether they really want rushing a behind as part of the game or not. Essentially they say, you can’t do it, but you can do it if you really need to. Imagine if that was the basis for the ‘push in the back’ rule, or the ‘tackling around the head’ rule. Imagine if that was part of the Crimes Act, “You can’t hit a guy a guy over the head with a brick and take his wallet, unless you really need to.”
    You can only shake your head and laugh. If they just asked me to write the rule for them, I would write something that made some kind of logical sense, that players could understand. And they wouldn’t have to pay me half-a-mil. I’d do it for much less. But then, where we would be without the mirth and controversy?

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