Mike or The Don has secured a Top-Secret interview with an anonymous member of the AFL’s “Laws of the Game” Committee to discuss the many controversies around recent AFL rule changes.
Full Disclosure: He was paid half a Nutella Donut and a small bottle of Sprite for the interview, which may or may not be entirely made up.
To protect his identity, we’ll call him “Barry McRuleFace”
So, Barry McRuleFace, thanks for joining us.
So you’ve probably heard the complaints about the rule changes?
Yes, the Rules Committee are very attuned to the concerns of AFL supporters. We’ve heard the complaints and the concerns.
Doesn’t mean we’ll change anything, of course. But we’ve heard them.
Look. We know people love AFL. They’re not going stop coming. They’re not going to stop following.
They’ll cop whatever changes we make, and they’ll cop it sweet, whether they like it or not.
And I mean it’s as though they’re about to go follow the bloody Melbourne Storm, now, are they?!
Errrrr… I guess not… Now. In particular this year, obviously, the third-man-up ban and the idea of nominating ruckmen before the contest has caused a lot of anger. What was the reasoning behind the change?
Well now that was a bloody tricky one.
It’s basically because of Ty Vickery.
Vickery? You changed the rule because of Ty Vickery?
Sort of. You see, we wanted to clear up congestion and let our marquee players have some room to move. Congestion is a problem, and we want the Dangerfields and Bontompellis of the world to have space to run into. Makes for good footy, doesn’t it?
But the problem with gun midfielders being the stars is that by the time most kids are 16 they know whether they have a chance to be the next gun midfielder.
99% of them know they’re not.
But that doesn’t matter for tall kids. They can look up to the Vickerys of the world. He’s going to chalk up a 150+ game career as a bloody average player who just happens to be tall. That’s important, because the AFL is struggling to recruit junior players right now. Soccer and basketball are kicking our arses, if truth be told, and we couldn’t keep losing the tall kids to basketball.
We needed Ty Vickery as an example to point to: ‘Hey, look at him, tall and awkward kid tripping over your own feet… he’s rich and famous and he’s pretty much useless other than being tall.’
If we allow any reasonably athletic midfielder to just jump over the top of our clumsy tall timber, then Ty Vickery will never play a game again and we lose him as a marketing and recruitment tool. Can’t have that, so we changed the rule.
Riiiiiiight. Moving on. So deliberate rushed-behind and deliberate out-of-bounds rules have been refined in recent years, but many aren’t happy with the changes. People are confused. Can you explain the changes?
Well we know what everyone loves the fact that many AFL rules are all about vague interpretation or mindreading by the umpires.
Things like ‘deliberate/not deliberate’ and ‘intention to dispose of the ball’ obviously require mindreading to be enforced properly. We wanted to make some of our vague rules even vaguer, and allow our umpires more opportunities to read players’ minds. Fans love it.
Really? Because we feel as though AFL fans want fewer of those kinds of rules…
Not what we’ve heard, mate.
I mean, next time you’re at the footy, listen to the fans all yell “BAAAAAAALLLLLLL!” at the first sign of a tackle even when they player gets the ball away in a split-second.
The fans want players pinged! They don’t want strict “rules” and “technicalities” getting in the way. Vagueness all the way!
Did you, a Rules Committee Member, seriously just use air-quotes around the word “Rules”?
Yeah, mate! Look, it’s not about “technicalities” any more.
We know that half the handballs made in tight spaces are actually throws, we’re not blind!
And we know that players should technically get done for ‘incorrect disposal’ about ten times as often as they are… but that’s just slowing down play! That’s why we let them “make a genuine attempt” [McRuleFace winks theatrically and taps the side of his nose with a finger] and call play on.
Today it’s all about ball movement and pace and keeping the action flowing. The fewer whistles the better, if you ask me.
Yes, now, you’ve actually touched on an interesting point. Recent years’ changes to interchange and game-play rules have largely been geared towards fewer stoppages, faster games, higher scores.
Is that still the priority?
If I had to list our top priorities, they’d be:
- Keep players safe and injury-free so the inevitable concussion class action we’re going to cop in 20 years isn’t too expensive… and also so Mums know their precious darlings will be safe so they’ll sign their kids up for AFL Auskick instead of that bloody junior soccer thing that’s taken right off. Hence the high-tackle rule changes.
- Keep the scores ticking over. Fewer stoppages mean higher scores, and since most teams are carrying around 4 or 5 deadweight clumsy bastards who are always breaking the rules, we’ve just told the umpires to let a few things go. As I said, incorrect disposals and throws are pretty much ignored. But there’s also things like holding players behind play that crap players resort to… we pretty much let that slide these days.
- More indoor or Northern-State stadiums. It’s a Winter sport but watching 36 blokes covered in mud slosh around trying to hold onto a ball isn’t exactly thrilling for most people. A final score of 46 – 38 where the crowd get saturated is just terrible for attracting fans, no matter how much the traditionalists tell you they love the slog. It’s bloody tough to watch, and I’m Victorian.
- Get rid of technical rules that just confuse people who grew up outside of Victoria. We’ve got big plans to expand the game to make lots more money… And at the end of the day isn’t that what this great game is all about…? Making more money? But if want to do that it means getting NSW and QLD properly on board. They’re a bit dim, up that way, so we can’t have technical rules confusing them. I mean, they all love a sport that’s just neckless tanks running at each other over and over while struggling to count to 5 in their heads. Not a lot of rocket scientists up that way.
[Points straight up, as though Sydney hovers directly above Melbourne]
Interesting, and well done for somehow speaking in bullet point form.
Before you go, one more rule to discuss.
You’ve recently signed off on a countdown clock, sponsored by luxury watch manufacturer Tissot. It will run on advertising boards at MCG games and will only switch off for the final 60 seconds. Why mess with over 100 years of players not knowing how long is left in the game?
Well, that’s an interesting question but ummmmmmm [McRuleFace checks the shiny new Tissot watch on his left wrist, tag still attached showing a RRP of AUD$7,999.00] oh geez would you look at the flippin’ time!!! I’ve gotta go! I’ve got a bloody Rules Meeting!
Well Mr McRuleFace, thanks for your time. Anything interesting on the agenda tonight?
[Standing to leave] Aaah well, I probably shouldn’t say anything but what the hell…
Overtime. No more draws. What do you reckon?!
Bloody brilliant, Barry!