The state of the game


It’s the question on every football supporters lips…is the game going backwards? Has it become too negative? Has it become slow and boring- and what is the league looking to do about it?


It looks likely that the league will continue with their annual tinker with the rules in a bid to free up the game and make it more appealing. And who are the personnel they are turning to rectify the problems? Well, one thing’s for sure- it’s not the supporters. It’s the coaches…yep, the very people who got us into this muddle in the first place.


There’ll be tweaks and ‘re-alignments’ to solve the current problems with little thought given to what these changes might cause further down the road. Remember, these are the same people who changed the rules to prevent a third player ‘up’ at a ball-up, and the same people who introduced the fourth interchange player who wasn’t really an interchange player, and both these rule changes had ramifications far beyond their original intention. These rule changes were ill-considered and reactionary and my guess is that coaching staff will quickly find a way around any mooted changes, and then we’ll be confronted by a fresh series of problems.  I’ve given this quite a bit of thought, mainly about how the league honchos could be proactive for a change instead of reactive, and how they could improve the visual spectacle of the game without changing the game’s structures, and I think I may have come up with a solution that just might solve that problem.


It’s a solution that encourages high scores, adds drama – especially to the final stages of the season, and might also lessen the amount of games that fizzle out in the last quarter when sides just play out time.


I think the solution is to use bonus points on top of points for a win but not solely for the winning team- but for both teams, so that both teams are awarded bonus points for high scoring. Of course, a lot of people might ask, why give bonus points to the losing team as well? That’s simple- to prevent teams playing out a game where the main imperative is to shut down the opposition’s scoring and prevent them from gaining any bonus points – but when both teams can achieve bonus points both have to play with the same imperative.


Here’s how it might work: Two bonus points would be awarded to teams, win or lose, that reach a certain score. That score has to be achievable, but not too easily achievable- so, let’s make it say, 15 goals.


In essence this means that the winning team receive two bonus points on top of their four winning points if they reach a game total of fifteen goals. The losing team, if they also reach fifteen goals receives two bonus points. Two extra bonus points would be also awarded to teams when they get to twenty goals, then twenty five goals etc.


This is what might happen: Clubs and coaches will need to develop strategies which encourage high scoring – such as selecting players who are long and accurate kicks so it’s likely that we would also see more contested marks in the goal square for kicks that drop short and it also might mean that accurate kicking becomes an imperative rather than the after-thought that it currently appears to be.


Let’s set the scene: Round 11, 2018. It was the Swans versus Carlton. The game is done and dusted by three quarter time…everyone yawns. But the Swans finished on 13 goals and  another two straight kicks and might have earned them bonus points and as a result the game would hold interest right until the final siren, and similarly the game between Geelong and the Suns in the same round. That game was done and dusted as well and Geelong finished on 17 goals- they would have already received two bonus points but another two were still achievable if they went for it in the last quarter….would they go for them? Or would they put the cue in the rack?


A quick look through this year’s results consistently turns up games that were over early in the game which might have had a lot more interest if sides threw everything at earning bonus points. This wouldn’t just be an ‘end of year’ scenario either. Teams would be forced to aim for higher scores – a place in the finals might be at stake.


Let’s look at a few scenarios: Let’s take the game between the Swans and Hawthorn in the last round. Let’s imagine the Hawks one game and percentage out of the eight. They can’t make it unless they not only win, but must earn bonus points to get in. What would have been in the past a dead rubber now becomes an important match-up.


Let’s take this a bit further – Let’s say the Hawks look like finishing just in the eight on percentage only but blow the start of the game against the Swans and at three quarter time are well behind….say the Swans on seventeen goals and the Hawks on eleven goals and, seemingly, out of the contest. They look like they are going to lose and might even slip out of the eight…but they can stay in the eight if they can come home with a wet sail, reach fifteen goals and secure their spot in the finals. That would sure make for an exciting last quarter, and imagine the tension if other teams were hot on the heels of the Hawks! And this intrigue would apply right across the season…any team that kicked themselves out of contention in the early rounds, whether it was a win or a loss, might very well live to rue that at season’s end.


The Advantages of awarding bonus points to both teams:


None of the other rules of the game have to change – only the points awarded for high scoring.


Dead rubbers would still have potential interest.


Teams with a substantial lead would be less likely to put the cue in the rack late in the game.


Increased potential for more contested marks in the goal square.


Increased accuracy when kicking for goal.


Coaching strategies have to be more concerned with increased goal scoring instead of focusing so much on defence.


The disadvantages:


The moral conundrum – should we reward a losing team with bonus points. A losing team in a high scoring game may end up with the same points as a winning team in a low scoring game. As far as I’m concerned a team that loses but still posts a high score encourages attractive high scoring football.


The Stadium factor – do teams that play at Etihad under the closed stadium roof have a greater opportunity to achieve bonus points than teams playing out in the open? (Well, we could simply have the roof open for all games, but that’s not going to happen.) Likewise, do teams playing in Brisbane and Perth have a greater opportunity to reach the bonus points because of the local weather conditions? I don’t think there’s a lot in it, and I think the advantages of awarding bonus points far outweigh the disadvantages.


Of course there’s always the other alternative…don’t change the rules at all – and let the game sort itself out!



About Murray Walding

Writer/ author specializing in beach, surf and pop culture. Background in education and later, in retail. One time nippy half-forward. Lapsed muso.


  1. Curtis – I like the last line.

  2. Jarrod_L says

    I think it serves a purpose in Super Rugby and worthy of discussion, but I tend to err on the same side as Dips here. I think the stadia/conditions issue was too quickly brushed aside in your analysis, it would almost certainly be a decisive factor for teams lucky enough to play in pristine conditions.

  3. Stephen Alomes says

    Facts help strengthen the analysis of the mess that is the game ….which I termed in my book Tackleball and Stoppageball and Ted Hopkins called Ugby, a cross between Rugby and Ugly. I now call it Zoneball.
    Forget evolution, forget sorting itself out….an absurd proposition.
    The coaches created Zoneball, not AFL tinkering with the rules.
    We have zones now, with over 30 players inside 50, most in one pocket. Plus running games and hammies… and numerous concussions.
    The poachers became the gamekeepers (coaches) and stuffed the game by trying to win ugly (cf Chelsea parking the bus, England rugby winning by kicking and forgetting the try – the aim of the game)… and making pressure/tackles more important than other football skills.
    No there will be more mutations, not evolution. We need a counter-revolution – the coaches have had a revolution. Don’t change the fundamentals say a few dumbos (including usually thoughtful ex-players, JB,MR,BM) except if you put your glasses on (and binoculars to see inside the scrum or maul) you’ll notice that the fundamentals have changed already – everything except the team positions in the paper before the match.
    Let’s bring back footy.

  4. Murray Walding says

    Hi Jarrod….I started looking at this idea of using bonus points a few years back…(but I noticed that someone in the media, just this week has mooted it but with only one bonus point and without the bonus for the losing team, should they get to fifteen goals) and I went through the entire 2016 season and calculated the ladder for each round if bonus points were added to the scores- surprisingly it made hardly any difference to the placings, whereas I had imagined that the differences would be profound…just a few small changes in the middle of the ladder. I realise that make this calculation after the fact is misleading cos teams haven’t been playing with the imperative to score bonus points. I did the same halfway through last year and once again, there was very little change.
    I didn’t gloss over the stadium differences, because contrary to what you’d think, once again there appeared to be no significant difference, based on this years results. I had looked at the results to the end of round nine- the last complete round without a bye. Surprisingly, Etihad with its roof was not significantly better than say the MCG. The average number of goals kicked by the winning team at the MCG was 15. At Etihad it was 14.3! Neither of which were as good as….Tassie venues at 16 goals. Its too small a sample to rely on but I would have thought it would be Tasmania where scores would be lower…so all in all, I reckon that like the present fixtures, its the luck of the draw. The venue doesn’t appear to be a big a factor.

Leave a Comment