Scoring is low – blinkers are the answer

Okay, so everyone is saying the game is stuffed worse than ever.  It resembles rugby or soccer or netball.  Footballers are playing like crabs, kicking the ball backwards and sideways.  It’s keepings off.  The possession game is dull.

Match scores haven’t been this low since 1968.

Crowds are down.  No one will ever kick 100 goals again in a season.  A pack mark is the new screamer, and no one is taking screamers.  30 possessions is the new 20, an average game.

We are getting bored.  It is the coaches fault.  It seems unbelievable, but they want to win premierships instead of entertain.

It is Sun Tzu’s fault for writing the Art of War, and Mick Malthouse’s fault for interpreting it.  It is Rodney Eade’s fault for implementing the flood, Denis Pagan’s fault for inventing the paddock, Alistair Clarkson’s fault for creating zones, Malthouse’s fault for the box-press and Lyon’s fault for the zombie maul.

The coaches are strangling the game and they don’t care.

The only way to fix the scoring drought is by tinkering with the rules, so put your blinkers on.

Capping rotations is what we wanted, but it has made things worse.  The laws of the game committee recommended 80.  But the AFL Commission isn’t the federal government and they don’t automatically adopt taxing recommendations.  The commission set the limit at 120.

Kevin Bartlett quit the laws committee in disgust.  Let’s put a cap on the commission and reduce rotations to 80, which is what everyone wanted.  The sub rule, which no one wanted, hasn’t improved scoring and it should be scrapped.

How about widening the goals from 6.4 metres to ten?  Travis Cloke is sure to kick more accurately with goals that wide.  And an expansive gap will be alluring.  Teams will attack that open space.

Blinkers working?

There are too many players on the ground.  Reducing the number of players to 16 will increase the available space.  Decreasing the length of each quarter to fifteen minutes will prevent players getting tired.

Two players from each team must remain inside the 50m arc at all times to further reduce the amount of congestion.  Those players need to wear a bib or a bra so everyone knows who they are.

How are those blinkers going?

Pay a 15 meter advantage for a player taking a contested mark.  That will encourage pack marks and kill the keepings off game.

Only four players from each team are allowed in the centre square at the start of the game, start of each quarter or following a goal, until the ball comes out.  That includes a secondary bounce.

Any backwards kick is play on, except in forward fifty.  Teams are banned from kicking the ball back into defensive 50.  Three backwards or sideways kicks in a row is a free kick.

Reduce the number of games played to 17, so the hated draw isn’t compromised.  Forget all rational logic that suggests the draw has always been compromised long before expansion.

By now I figure those blinkers are doing their job.

If pre-season training started in January, players wouldn’t be as fit.  They would be encouraged to eat pizza and drink beer.  Clubs cannot employ dieticians or scientists.

To penalise the players from accumulating meaningless possessions and Brownlow votes, only possessions that go forward are counted.

Let’s not forget the bonus point for a club kicking 100 points, which has received recent media.  Bonus points are great.  They should also be awarded to teams who run onto the ground first and clubs that get more spectators to the game.

How about giving clubs a bonus point if they kick five goals in a quarter?  Or a bonus point for winning four games in a row?

What about a power-play, where one team has to send two players off for ten minutes?  The power-play can be enforced at any time of the game.  That would be a huge inducement to attack.

What about a million dollar prize for kicking 100 goals in a season?

Now, those blinkers can get narrower if you like.  It’s a simple adjustment, and we have more work to do.

After a behind, the ball must be kicked beyond fifty.  That way, virtually every kick would go to a contest.  It would also reduce deliberate behinds.

The legal distance for a kick increases from 15 metres to 25.  Short kicks will become passé and the possession game will die.

And finally, how about forcing the players to wear blinkers?  The blinkers are working for us, why not the players?  Blinkers will stop them from seeing backwards.  They will be forced to kick forward.

Now, let’s take those blinkers off.  Can you see in all directions?  Take a look at the game.

In recent history, Geelong, Hawthorn and Collingwood have won premierships by playing attacking footy.  Have flair so flaunt it.

Only Sydney, in 2005, has won a premiership through sheer defence.  There have always been ordinary games.  Coaches have always pushed the rules.  The game is always evolving.

So let’s leave the blinkers off and let the coaches sort it out.  No matter how the rules change, they will coach to win, whatever it takes, however it happens.

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Completely agree. I reckon part of the problem is the saturation cover of footy these days. We get to see all (most, at least, if one doesn’t have Rupert-view) games, the crap as well as the sublime. Back in the day, you’d be lucky to catch one game live, maybe one on replay and some edited highlights. I suspect most critics are viewing the “golden days”, through heavily rose-tinted glasses. Don’t meddle with the rules and let the game evolve.

  2. Stainless says

    Likewise agree about no need for rule changes but with one proviso.

    When I played footy at school, we were always assured that if you were first to the ball you’d be protected by the umpire.

    The prevailing view these days that less free kicks is better has killed that notion and is the biggest contributor to ugly congested footy.

    At any stoppage these days, once the initial pack forms, you’ll see the player with the ball routinely ridden into the ground, pushed in the back, tackled from head to toe until the umpire elects to call for a ball up or, for variation, penalise the poor bastard for holding the ball.

    A very quick way to eliminate this style of play would be a stricter application of the rules that were originally designed to protect the ball-winner. Coaches would have to think carefully about the value of lots of numbers around the ball to lock it in if they knew there was a high risk that they’d be penalised.

    Free kick counts were way higher in past decades. Some may look soft by today’s standards but they certainly kept the game open and flowing.

  3. Stainless, you’re right about the reduced number of free kicks.
    In the 90s and early 2000s, there was an average of 40 per game.
    I think the coaches asked the AFL to let play go on because it suits their defensive game plans.
    If the umpires paid those free’s you mentioned and quickly, the game would be quicker.
    When I umpired, anyone who dragged the ball in was pinged. I would yell out tap it on, hit it out and if they didn’t they were gone. Stopped diving on the ball, kept the packs down and the game flowed.

  4. Stainless says

    I reckon the average was even higher in the 80s.

    I would also apply this approach to taggers. There’s nothing more impressive than seeing an honest battler take the points against a champion by close checking and concentration but some of the tactics I’ve seen this year have been dreadful. Any scragging, blocking or contact off the ball- immediate free kick, every time. We’d soon know which of these blokes can really play.

  5. daniel flesch says

    Agree with it all , especially Stainless’s “we were always assured that if you were first to the ball you’d be protected by the umpire.” I hate the way players wait for an opponent to grab the ball then grab him. Always another bloody ball-up ‘coz the bloke that went for the ball didn’t have “prior opportunity.” I especially hate it when the Hawks i have long supported do it . Does Clarko read the mighty Almanac ? Not a serious question. Wish he did though.

  6. Stepphen says

    Teams like Melbourne work on the theory that whilst they have the ball the opposition cant score.
    Any game in which Melbourne play will have 30 minutes (out of the 120 minutes a game goes for)
    where they kick backwards, sidewards, obliquely to uncontested players. Of course Melbourne are going to get less scored against them under Roos, but it is sooo boring and uninspiring to watch.
    The AFL have got to weigh up if they are to allow this ugly, boring football to continue, to satisfy coaches who want to win at any cost – or to do something drastic to make our great game exciting to watch.
    Make it compulsory that teams must have 3 players inside the forward 50 at all times.This would immediately stop the kicking backwards in defence that has become a blight on our game.
    We need one on one contests, pack marks, long kicking and way less scrimages to make our game great again.
    Players and coaches need to be educated that it is OK to actually kick to a contest. assuming you have equal numbers at the contest you are 50/50 to either mark or crumb.
    Coaches are way too obsessed with efficiency – it is a useless stat. I could kick 10 metres to an unmarked player every time I got the ball if I played in Melbourne’s defence. Does it make me a great player – No. However statistics would say I was running at 100 efficiency for the game.
    Memo to AFL coaches – did you know that it actually possible to kick a goal from fullback whilst having 0% efficiency, by kicking long, in the direction of your goals, to contested packs and winning crumb. I’ve been going to the footy for 50 years but I cant stand watching it now, even if my team wins.

  7. Stepphen,
    For several years I’ve been an advocate for two or three players to be stationed inside 50.
    It automatically takes four or six players out of the congestion.
    I also think interchange should be capped at 80.
    Despite the criticism, I still watch.
    And always will…

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