Primary school basic maths taught you us few things, division being one of them. It was in the classroom where we learned that 130 doesn’t go into 80; there’s no room to move, no give or take.
It’s this hardball approach that the AFL has taken with the controversial interchange cap that is bringing division into the fore this week, most poignantly the growing gap between the rules committee and the players.
As Hawthorn hard nut Brad Sewell discussed on Fox Footy’s AFL 360, it seems that there is less importance being placed on player welfare and comfort as the administrators chop and change the nuances of the game to make it more aesthetically pleasing. Yet it might just be the AFL whose decision making means the effect of this proposed ‘improvement’ to our great game is quite the opposite.
The flow-on effect is simple from a supporter’s view. Fatigued players spend more time out on the ground due to harsh restrictions on team rotations and the risk of injuries increase at least twofold, as does the likelihood of star players missing games due to lack of full fitness, something that is even more devastating to teams lower on the ladder. An absence of players leads to a lack of wins and ultimately, no finals berth for any given club.
Whilst the stars would have to align for such an unfortunate run of events to occur to a team, the mere hypothetical of such an impact strikes fear into the footballing public. Essendon supporters that witnessed the Bombers’ fall from the top of the ladder out of the top eight will understand.
As chins wag over the marketability and flamboyancy of Lance “Buddy” Franklin as a promotional tool for the national game, the AFL’s intention of wanting to show off these star players week in, week out could backfire via its own polarising decision. No longer will coaches and staff have the freedom to quickly interchange players based on their fitness levels in a bid to reduce the risk of injury whilst still keeping the playing 18 at a competitive level.
While Sewell may have slightly overreacted in remarking that the game of Australian Rules could be “unrecognisable” in the near future from what it was 15 to 20 years ago, he raises a valid point about the rapidity in which the AFL rules committee try to grow and evolve the game, often to their own detriment.
North Melbourne coach Brad Scott is wary that clubs will be “Chasing (their) tail” as rules continue to be introduced, and rightly so. It’s hard to remember the last time the league has been unequivocally praised by fans and players alike for a new or tweaked rule.
Until the AFL learns to slow down and take a breath before it again inevitably jumps into a swathe of rule changes and impractical alterations, the welfare of football’s star players will be in need of constant repair.
Perhaps a couple of members on the rules committee could take a trip back to primary school and reacquaint themselves with the laws of basic division.