The State Of Play

Australian Football, like all codes, is always evolving.  Several years ago, those halcyon 1990s, Anthony Koutoufides was the prototype for the 21C footballer.  He was super fit, fast, strong.  It was obvious.  As football became more and more a very well-paid full time job, footballers were going to reach ever higher levels of aerobic fitness, they would run farther and faster and more numbers would be found around the contest, coaches would use that to their advantage.

So it has happened.  I’d like to think I first predicted this around ’97, but I’d sure figured it by ’02.  Lethal’s Lions were the last of the classic football teams.  The ‘ugly’ Swans played two great Grand Finals against West Coast, the die was cast, so we thought.  Then Geelong hit their straps, fast, risky football.

Evolution, see?

Today I read a piece on The Age website, written by a chap named Stephen Alomes.  I suspect him to be a glass half-empty kinda chap, having writ “For this Saturday may well be the darkest day in Australian sport. And it will occur on the field.”

See, according to Stephen, Ross Lyon and Paul Roos, are “evil geniuses” who have, with assistance from Rodney Eade and Mick Malthouse, “fundamentally changed the character of the game.”

Well, yes. Keep moving or die.  But for Stephen, “the game they play is not football.”

So, you might ask, what is the solution to this blight on the game that has arisen naturally from increasing professionalism?  Very simple, according to Stephen: “each team must have a minimum of four players behind each 50-metre line.”

I’ve heard this before.  David Parkin wasn’t the only one talking about it in ’05.  Or ’98.

“The future of Australian football is under threat on Saturday.”

Oh, really?  The very nature of Australian Football will be destroyed by an offside rule, Stephen.  The game will always continue to evolve.  In the 1930s, full forwards ruled the park, kicking bags every week.  From 1929 to 1940, the leading goalkicker kicked a ton in all but two seasons.  From 1941 to 1967, only John Coleman hit three figures, but it exploded from ’68 onwards.  Hudson, McKenna, Wade, Templeton, Roach, Blight, Quinlan, Taylor, Lockett, Dunstall, Modra, Ablett, all Coleman centurions.

Lockett, Dunstall, Ablett.  Let’s take a moment to dwell on their collective greatness and our good fortune to have seen them play…

The game changes always, it is organic, it evolves.  Sure, there’s a serious defensive aspect around today, but, given the pace of change, who’s to say that Jeremy Cameron won’t kick 120 in the H&A in 2018?  I sure hope so, big bags, towering marks, fast leads, and I’m taking a West Sydney membership next year.

But it is no reason to start writing about offside rules, which is what Mr Alomes is suggesting.  “Each team must have a minimum of four players behind each 50-metre line.”

“Controlled by the video umpire” no less.  Sure, we’d all love to see that.  Those video umpires have really lifted the game to a whole new level this year, haven’t they?

Any suggestion of an offside rule will destroy the nature of Australian Football far more than Ross Lyon’s defensive pressure.  As with any tactical or strategic shift in the game, some teams will take it up and some will start thinking of a way to defeat it.  We’ve seen this almost every year lately, the pace of change is breathtaking.  Ross Lyon has his concept, Alastair Clarkson has his.

“Darkest day in Australian sport.”  No it aint.  Stephen Alomes, you may be a wonderful bloke, good company at parties, worth a good chat in the corner of a bar, but your venture into sports journalism is misguided and ill-informed.

As for the Grand Final, I hope Freo win.  I’m a bit peeved that they won’t be wearing the royal purple, but I really wanted to see them in the old anchor and navigation lights strip anyway.

I won’t be watching the match, Perky Girl and I will be motorbiking south to catch New Christs, the best rock and roll band in Australia.

The Mayblooms are my least favourite team, I hope they lose by one point, from a dodgy free after the siren.  And, while I think of it, who the bloody hell approved the 1970s shorts with the yellow piping on the front and the brown piping on the back?  Didn’t it ever occur to anyone that they were sending out onto the paddock a team that had the collective look of the chronically incontinent?

About Earl O'Neill

Freelance gardener, I've thousands of books, thousands of records, one fast motorcycle and one gorgeous smart funny sexy woman. Life's pretty darn neat.


  1. Hi Earl

    Bravo, well said. I read Stephen’s article an hour ago, and like you, thought it trite. We only need to look at how the game shook off the flood to alleviate concerns that it could evolve into rugby. All this stuff is ebb and flow, like ice ages and changes to the season. Just as Geelong emerged with an attacking, attractive style that mothballed the flood, so will another team. No need for off side rules and tweaking just yet … let’s see how Freo’s strategies hold up long term (but all the same, I hope it prevails today.)

    PS Can’t sleep … so freaking excited!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    How many times do we as lovers of the game make the statement
    LEAVE THE GAME ALONE and who has caused so many of the problems in the game
    Kevin Bloody Bartlett and his laws committee ! What is the biggest travesty in the game today ? When the poor bloke who is making the ball his object and a pack occurs and he has as much chance of getting rid of it as flying to the moon is pinged !
    No the game as society evolves will do likewise and I thought Fremantles Manic Defensive Pressure in the 2nd quarter was fascinating to watch . Yes some rule changes in Sport improve the game ironically the best in my opinion is Hockey getting rid of the offside rule Go Figure ! I believe the Major Problems in The Game today are Jeff Gieschen Rowan Sawyers and the Rules committee that is the changes needed to be made to improve the game re The instructions and the Interpretations and positioning given to the umpiring panel NOT bringing in OFFSIDE CRAP

  3. Tasman Hughes says

    I don’t think that the rules need to be changed in any way, shape or form. The style of footy will change, but that doesn’t mean that the rules have to. When you start adding in more fancy rules the game becomes overcomplicated until it reaches the point where no one can understand it, including the players.

  4. Tasman Hughes says

    And I don’t think anyone can credibly say that Fremantle’s style of footy is boring. I watched in miserable admiration as they demolished my poor Swannies in the prelim. Didn’t do them much good in the Grand Final, though.

  5. daniel flesch says

    Hawthorn is your least favourite team , Earl , but is my favourite team and has been for longer than you have been alive. Their colours are GOLD and brown , not yellow , which belongs to the “Yellow and Black” mob. And how many times does it need to be pointed out the obsession some people seem to have about Hawthorn’s colours is childish , boring and unorigina l? Incidentally – the change of name from Mayblooms to Hawks came from the then coach Roy Cazaly . And why would you want a team to lose any match after a dodgy free for gorsake ? How would you feel if it happened to your team ? Don’t you want the umps to get it right ? If you were just joking i don’t think it’s all that funny. On your motorbike.

  6. Earl O'Neill says

    ‘Miserable admiration’ – neat phrase, Tasman.

    Daniel – BAZINGA!

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