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.