Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago
By The Football Tragic
As a football follower, we are all exposed to the writings, conversations, opinions and murmurings of those employed by the extending sources of covering media as to what is important to the game. Most commonly, they reference their points with the adage ‘the common supporter’ – these are the same media who rarely pay to enter the ground, have a media room for a feed at intervals and get closer to the superstars of the game, at least in proximity, than many of us dream about. Yet, one element endears them to the ‘common man’ – they are football supporters by and large. They are paid, some would argue handsomely, for their opinions and to keep us ‘commoners’ advised of the pressing issues in the AFL landscape, after all, we can’t access some of the information they are privy to on our lonesome – their writings and reporting provide a vehicle for the transmission of ideas, opinions and informed debate.
Despite the airwaves, paper space and televised journalistic efforts, there remain burning issues that don’t receive the attention and yet, as a common supporter, I hear them all on a weekly basis as I leave the arena. These subject matters seem to be overlooked or merely not worthy of consistent attention until an irate supporter expresses them over twitter, Facebook or make calls to talkback radio to raise them. I’m not talking about matters such as why Team A beat Team B at stoppages or whether Jack Riewoldt is playing injured. Nor is it about the AFLPA CBA negotiations and whether the players should receive 25-27% of total incomings to the game, regardless of the press devoted to this. I believe The Iron Sock could complete another thesis on the subject and none of us would be any wiser as to how these negotiations are transpiring. No, these issues are those we debate amongst our friends over a beer, vent about as we watch the game and ultimately ponder as we board the train/tram or walk to our vehicles in jubilation or utter dismay. And rest assured, the Carbon Tax isn’t involved.
Issue One – Holding The Ball and Incorrect Disposal Rules.
These rules are easily summarised and excuse the over dramatisation of interpretation, however it serves a purpose;
- The most basic description of the law is: if a player does not dispose (kick or handball) of the ball legally whilst being legally tackled by an opposition player, then the umpire will award a free kick to the tackling player.
- An umpire will deem that a player or players from the same team have had a prior opportunity to dispose of the ball if one of those players has had a reasonable time to dispose of the ball prior to being tackled. Holding the ball still applies if multiple players from the same team are holding the ball without the opposing team also having joint possession of the ball.
- A player being tackled must not hold onto the ball, unless it is trapped to his body by the tackler or the ground. A player may correctly dispose of the ball by hand or by foot. An attempt to handball, or the ball being slung out of one hand by the force of the tackle, is not a throw if a player is being tackled, but it is incorrect disposal if there is prior opportunity.
- When there is no prior opportunity, the player will be penalised only if the umpire deems that he has made no genuine attempt to dispose of the ball correctly within a reasonable time of being tackled and the ball is not trapped to the player by the tackler or the ground, including when his non-carrying hand is pinned by the tackler with the ball not being trapped.
- Any genuine attempt to correctly dispose of the ball within a reasonable time will result in a “play on” decision – the disposal does not have to be “correct”, i.e. the hand or foot does not need to make contact with the ball in the attempted handball or kick, and the ball can touch the ground. A player may knock the ball clear of his possession instead of attempting to correctly dispose, without penalty, if the tackle brings him to ground causing the ball to be grounded. If the ball is jarred free immediately by the force of the tackle; including if the ball is slung out of one hand, or both arms are pinned to the side of the player causing the ball to drop; the player will not be penalised. Furthermore, if the ball is held to the player by the tackler or the ground, causing the ball to be trapped, a bounce will result.
- If there is prior opportunity, the player must correctly dispose of the ball immediately when he is tackled to avoid giving away a free kick. If the ball is held to him, jarred free by the tackle or the ball drops to the ground, holding the ball will be paid. An attempted kick or handball is only allowed if there is no prior opportunity.
- If a player elects to drag the ball underneath himself or dive on the ball, he is then required to immediately knock the ball clear of his possession (a player is no longer in possession if he is not laying on the ball or the ball is not within his grasp) or correctly dispose of the ball. If a player is not dispossessed on the instant of the tackle, the application of “immediately” is applied in a reasonable fashion so that the amount of time given to make a correct disposal is not impossible.
With all the above said, imagine you are at the game on a weekend and tell me if any of the above remotely go through your head and formulate part of your reasoning when you scream ‘BAAAALLLLLL.’ Fundamentally, I believe one of the two is applicable – a) the rule is rudimentary flawed or b) the interpretation has been relaxed beyond belief. The game, circa 2011 is a rolling maul of 4 to 8 players jostling on top of one another or the alternative, a perfectly executed tackle results in no reward. If tackling, you know, that lost art that every media scribe harps on about at every available opportunity, is not rewarded in the ‘spirit’ of the rule – then we may as well scrap the tackle as we have attempted to scrap the bump and play a game of keeping off. The ‘perfect’ tackle is no longer rewarded, we see far too many instances of volleyball spikes, thrown out of packs, flung out as the tackle is executed, ‘hatching’ the pill to slow the play all in an effort to aid the concept of ‘continuous motion and play’ – as a supporter – if a player takes four steps, runs straight into a player and gets wrapped up, he’s had an opportunity to dispose of the ball – be it a good opportunity or a bad one, he’s had an opportunity. I long for the 2003 – 2008 definition of holding the ball and incorrect disposal – where the tackler was viewed in the same light as the individual in position – it was a contest!
Issue Two – Match Review Panel Consistency.
It beggars belief every Monday when the panel’s findings are handed out – the general supporter has no idea about what is legal, what’s not, what constitutes negligent, intentional or otherwise forms of impact, let alone before we address the grading of impact and where the definition of ‘play’ starts and finishes. That’s us as supporters – imagine being a player or a coach, its lucky dip time!
One could rattle off a litany of specific examples, however the key word I utilise in life, the Courts rely upon is PRECEDENT. The only way in which consistency can be found is via the utilisation of precedent. If you want to debate precedent, then use the evidence to demonstrate how the two can’t be viewed together and must be seen in isolation. Point loading is fine, understandable, poor records or ‘frequent flyers’ have to be punished as a deterrent – no problem, but seriously this system is flawed.
As I write, Brad Ottens has received A WEEK for an elbow to the head, 50 metres behind the play that dropped a player because he has a five year good record. Yet, Jack Trengove tackled a player in the spirit of the rule that unfortunately resulted in a concussion and copped three weeks – one was in the ‘feel’ for the game and executing a skill , the other was the act of a frustrated forward on a bad night in a position that the AFL has been trying to stamp out since 1970. And yes, I know they aren’t the same and precedent couldn’t be seen to support one or the other, however the matter of consistency, or its lack thereof, is as clear as mud when looking at these incidents.
Issue Three – Fixturing and/or The Draw
As football followers we understand that the process can’t be simple. Our teams operate in a singular division competition with a number of teams that are not divisible by the allocated number of rounds within the system; further complicating this in 2011 is the uneven number of teams and the subsequent bye. But, the abnormalities of the process are beyond the fathom of a sane individual.
Utilising Collingwood as an example, the Pies will play Gold Coast Suns in Round 18, Brisbane Lions in Round 22 and Fremantle in Round 23. By the time in which these games have been played, they will have already played Carlton, North Melbourne, St Kilda, Port Adelaide and Essendon twice and had two byes (the latter three not applicable before the GC game). We also see that North Melbourne play St Kilda twice in the last six games of their respective draws.
Fundamentally, what is wrong with playing each team once prior to playing others twice? Is that a difficult concept to grasp? Ground management, gate takings and arguments of such ilk are just not justifiable reasons as to why this can’t occur. The fixture will not be an even playing field unless we turn to a 17 round season (or 34!) in 2012 and with television rights and the income being derived, this will not happen – but playing each team once before encountering a team again is just a simple process that every team should be awarded.
The three issues outlined above are just three of a long line of irritants that the ‘common’ football follower have – they don’t even tip the iceberg of issues we face. I’ve not even prattled on about the prices of food, the endeavour to remove the personality of footballers and make them drones, poor crowd behaviour, just to name a few, but the list goes on. However, the AFL has the ability to do something about the three issues presented in their role as the caretaker of the game at the elite level. The question remains the same though – will they?
- The Football Tragic
These thoughts and opinions are those of the author and are not necessarily aligned with those of Nick Maxwell or the people at nickmaxwell.com.au
Comment posted by Snag Breac on 2011-07-13 05:39:02
Yep, the MRP stinks of either incompetence or corruption. Perhaps a little of both?
Comment posted by ApplesKuwait on 2011-07-11 11:33:55
Yes indeed. I've given up trying to understand the Match Review Panel. Here's another irritant from this "common supporter". I know I am in a minority of this one (apparently) but does 7's footy director purposely try to drive us to distraction with that ridiculous wide shot? eg. The ball's on the southern wing and after the close shot as a player kicks the ball, director cuts to a wide view. Fine, but do we need to see all of the centre square including the northern side? Honestly, I can see better at the ground at the top of the Olympic Stand! Alf Potter had two or maybe three cameras and gave us a better view of the game and never missed a bounce or a kick. Admittedly, the game is faster now but 7 could rectify this easily by bringing in the wide shot a little. We'll still see the pattern of play but not strain our eyes. Would also help with our blood pressure! Here endeth my sermon.
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