Daring, Bravery Trumps All

Roger Federer said “Be free in your head, be free in your shots, the brave will be rewarded here.”, and “play the ball, not the opponent”.

What he meant is; he was not afraid to lose and was prepared for that outcome in an attempt to win.

He had many more unforced errors but also many more winners than Nadal, who is renowned as a defensive brick wall, keeping the ball in play. This seduces opponents to play the same – just keeping the ball in play and getting it back in. The problem is Nadal is the best in the business at this.

In a similar seduction the Swans and Eagles went through a bore fest during 2005 and 2006. Both teams exerting maximum negative, defensive tactics on each other and willing them into low score defeats.

When you are afraid to lose you provide manic support behind the ball, congestion at stoppages, control the ball movement patterns and maintain possession by passing the ball backwards and sideways.

There is a lot of sport these days that engages in an Indian arm wrestle of conservative counter punching – too afraid to deliver winning shots, knock out blows, 3 pointers, length of ground tries, dangerous passes, daring touchdowns and magnificent goals.

Basketball is a classic example. Whilst its a tad unfair (nevertheless the point is made), that its only worth watching the last 3 minutes of a basketball game because only then are they interested in actually winning the game.

I am of the view that if the Patriots were a bit closer to the Falcons in SuperBowl ’17 they would not have succeeded!

It was the enormous gap that provided the coaches with the daring and the players with the freedom of spirit to concoct the unbelievable cocktail we all witnessed in Super Bowl ’17. If it was closer, the entire mental dynamic over the game would’ve been different. Falcons are still driving the nail in the coffin and Patriots are still under the pump trying to release themselves and get into the game.

When sportspeople do not stay in the exact current moment and they start to think about the outcome (predict) or delve back into the past by either salivating over good performance or stressing over poor performance, incredibly bizarre things can happen. It happens in a nanosecond, may not even be a conscious thought you remember – but nevertheless the effects are catastrophic.

Without doubt the Falcon’s quarterback Matt Ryan was already on the dais accepting the Vince Lombardi Trophy. He will not acknowledge that fact but take it to the bank – its fact. 

Both teams thought the game was over, however one team reduced their intensity to coast to the line whilst the other team rolled the dice and said “we have nothing to lose”, “lets make the score a bit more respectable through daring”, “who cares what happens now, lets just flick it and chance some things”.

It’s with the aforementioned in mind that I ask with bewilderment why is Suns coach Rodney Eade asking AFL to implement zones to counter congestion?

I was of the understanding that coaches dictated game strategy? Why doesn’t Eade just keep 3 keys forwards in his F50 zone and 3 key defenders in his D50 zone?

What is stopping him?

The answer is that unless other clubs do the same, coaches are concerned the negative, defensive tactics applied by opposition coaches will not allow their team to score as effectively or efficiently. So why bother?

The AFL are in charge of most things and are far too controlling of the game but to suggest they are now in charge of playing patterns, strategy, tactics, ball movement and structures is a bit much for me to comprehend.

What Rodney Eade is staying is this; 

Us coaches are petrified of the media, our board and executive and public criticism of performance. We want to keep our coaching role for a very long time so self preservation is our primary aim. There is no way I’m going to be the fall guy, test the market or try to break the defensive, congested nexus that envelopes the game at the moment. Why should I do it if all the others are just going to counterpunch, strangle and congest?

The easy way is to get the AFL to change rules so coaches have no option other than to play the game like Federer or the Patriots or any other great sports person or team that possesses the bravery, courage and verve to look defeat in the eye and suffer the consequences of trying to win – with honour.

Thank heavens for Bevo and Clarko!

Rules on the Run

Here’s the problem; “Gill McLachlan is the man charged with keeping the game great…”

WRONG!

It’s definitely not his role, nor the Commission’s role – thankfully – it’s also not necessarily the Football Departments role.

The game should not be manipulated, moulded, exploited, engineered or finessed to appease a “moment-in-time” anomaly. 

LEAVE IT ALONE!

There should be no contemplation to reduce teams to 16 a side. This is an absurd suggestion attempting to open space and reduce congestion created by manic coaches too fearful to allow their players the freedom to express their ample talents and instinct. Just because we are on the back end of an unfortunate phase where coaches had a misguided balance between attack and defence we should not knee-jerk into rule changes. It will pass – primarily on the back of the courage and verve shown by premiership winning coach Luke Beveridge along with Hawthorn, Geelong and the Crows to a lesser extent. Make no mistake, coaches are forever meddling with strategy and tactics to reduce player instinct and intuitiveness and control the ball movement and playing patterns.

The introduction of zones will signal the final death knell in an already, maniacally, over-controlled environment. 

One must ask this simple question; “What are the AFL trying to achieve?” 

Is it aesthetics?

Is it safety?

Is it participation?

Is it competing for sport dominance?

Sydney Swans coach, John Longmire has been vocal about full time umpires. His reasoning is awkward at best, reflective “sooky lala” more likely. Seems he blames a few umpire decisions for not winning the premiership. Crying over spilt milk doesn’t appeal and surely is a poor basis for an agenda to change how much time umpires are employed. I’d suggest “Horse” spends more time getting his ample list of coaches to educate, train and motivate his team to perfecting their skills or better still releasing their negative shackles which may assist the outcome of major games.

Imagine $150K a year umpires becoming full time? One can only spitball a salary of around $300K? 

We absolutely need to provide a stronger pathway career for former players to enter umpiring. To me that should be a vital component for the career in the future.

Calls for “reward the tackler” are on the back of a decade of “protect the ball player”. You can’t have it both ways. Now Gillon wants umpires to reward the tackler!

I have a novel suggestion. DEFINE THE RULE AND IMPLEMENT IT!

Rules that can have diametrically opposed interpretations are not rules. As fans we should be incensed that the AFL has the jusrisdiction to emotionally meddle with interpretation as they see fit, changing it back and forth depending on water cooler discussions and intimidation from perceived industry heavyweights.

“If in doubt, play free kicks”, says Gill the Guru. I think he means “pay” but the real point here is who the hell does he think he is giving that direction? The rules should be so clearly defined that they are not debated – they are merely enforced. The CEO has zero jurisdiction in my opinion to provide advice to umpires on how to interpret rules. Butt out. By all means direct a group of people to assess the current rules and provide findings. 

The rule book needs a massive overhaul by way of a summit with qualified people empowered to deliver a succinct, simple, definable and enforceable set of rules for the 21st century.

Gill’s next clanger is the scheduling. He wants to break into conferences. Can you imagine the impact this will have with history and the future? Why do people think they have to change things? I agree the current schedule warrants some attention but unless you can provide a scenario where every team plays each other once with an extended finals series, I have no confidence in other more extravagant options.

Next are his views on James Hird and the endless Essendon saga………..

Staggering. 

I’ll save my more detailed response for another article. 

AFL Rule Meddling Dangerous

Our game as a spectacle is compromised by the strategic and tactical overlay applied by coaching staff.

If the AFL think they can meddle with the rules, apply specified zones or “no-go areas” ala netball and achieve a better outcome they are both gravely mistaken and confirm the naivety they regularly display.

Irrespective of what the AFL “serve” up to the game the over supply of coaching staff will work tirelessly to think of ways to wrest it back under their control.

It seems incredible that this glaringly obvious point has been missed over the past decade or so. 

To find a solution to a problem one must first understand the problem – the root cause. It’s not congestion, its not interchange, its not player fitness and it certainly isn’t sports science. The way we see the game today is a direct reflection of how the coaches want the game to be played. Controlling the flow, slow considered risk averse ball movement patterns and starting from a defensive mindset are all set plans to minimise the risk and retain possession. It is considered abhorrent to put the ball into a contested situation. 

There is no doubt that the current poor interpretation of the prior opportunity rule is contributing significantly to the situation. Cries of “why reward the tackler” and “protect the ball player” ring loud and clear on the paranoid ears of the AFL Football Department, who seem to have a never-ending desire to please society rather than improve the game. If the rule was applied as it is written most players these days would need to rid themselves of the footy in split second time (which by the way is ample prior opportunity – the rule doesn’t cater for the best available team mate option!)

Irrespective of what the AFL do, the coaches will always be one step ahead in trying to break the game down to what they consider is a controlling and manageable level. Unfortunately this is a furphy that does little more than create perceived comfort for the coaches and allows them to have a better hard luck story to tell in defeat. On top of all that it provides a very poor spectacle for the fans and shows a distinct lack of fibre from the people managing the players in my opinion.

The age old adage of “luck fortunes the brave” does prevail thankfully. Most coaches over the last couple of years are starting to identify the real keys to team success and are utilising their list strengths and talents as the cornerstone to their plans rather than a robotic approach which massively dilutes the true potential of AFL players.

Let’s hope the AFL shy away from their ridiculous aspirations to manage and control the game from the sidelines and put pressure on the coaches, clubs and media to adopt more aggressive tactics and take more responsibility for the direction the game is heading. Any way you want to cut it, the game is only 70% as good as it should be as we have negative, defensive tactics and strategies invading a game that is at its best when one dares to win.