The basis of most hysteria and discussion, followed by "knee-jerk" rule changes are generally one of the following;
1: "A really bad look for footy".
2: "A bad example for kids footy".
3: "Wrong message to send players including kids".
I have a novel idea that should have been introduced 20 years ago when officials took their oath to destroy the game as we knew it and adopt a community minded and vigilant approach to footy.
How about make a distinct gap between AFL and EVERY other competition in the land from juniors to seniors, country to metropolitan, women to men and seniors to reserves.
There is no doubt in my mind that the AFL executive and Commission completely lack courage and conviction and do not truly understand what they stand for and what the game fundamentals are. It seems the AFL executive is most interested in junior footy and every other league and uses the AFL to define it, rather than perhaps the other way around?
In their bumbling attempts to represent the community and be the lighthouse for society standards they are destroying the fabric of the game and diluting its greatest differentiating factor.
When anybody from overseas came to see our game they were gobsmacked with its physicality, intimidation and power. It was a tough, relentless game.
Before anyone jumps to the defence of today's players let me make this crystal clear – they are easily as tough and brave and courageous as any other era, they just don't have the rules or the coaching to allow them to display it on a regular basis.
I find more recently that people from overseas no longer hold that gladiator type view. Instead they just think its highly skilled and athletic, very difficult to understand and the rules are hard to follow.
This change in perception would be considered a major success by the community conscious AFL leaders.
Simply – in my mind – the AFL should be the big boys, the gladiators. All other competition's outside the AFL should not be allowed to have the same rules, interpretations or guidelines.
Use all other competitions and grades to send the message to society about safety.
That's not to say the AFL does not have that overlay, it just isn't bound by them. Similar to pro boxing and amateurs. One has head gear, bigger gloves and less time the other doesn't.
What has been happening over the last decade or so is this; players are becoming very poor at awareness and self-protection because the rules have been so heavily weighted to "clean footy". The by-product of this is players do not know how to protect themselves at all times. The have relinquished that duty and think its the AFL's job. An example is, "I'm allowed to drive heard first into a contest because I'll either get a free kick or the umpire will protect me."
An example would be the recent Toby Greene incident raising his leg into Dahlhaus' face to protect the area whilst marking. Dahlhaus 10 years ago would've expected contact from Toby Greene and prepared accordingly. There are many incidents where players are being concussed because they just do not have the awareness or self protection in the first place and rely too heavily on the rules and umpires.
AFL is still the most dynamic, skilful, intense game going around however it could be 20-30% better if they stopped being the moral compass for society and advertised AFL as a dangerous, powerful and unique game with "pro rules" as distinct from all other grades. People want danger, they like to witness sportspeople overcoming adversity and handling fear.
The head can still be protected, punching and thuggery would still be completely outlawed however the element of danger needs to rise and the responsibility for self protection must lay with the professional gladiators – not the Commission, executive, rules committee or umpires.
After that, all we have to do is convince the coaches to change their risk averse, interest-sapping, un-Australian, boring tactics/strategies and we will return to the lead as the most amazing game on the planet.