Anyone else see the irony in Ross Lyon and Alastair Clarkson coming out this week and suggesting that one way to increase scoring in the game would be to reduce the players on the field from 18 to 16? These two coaches are two of the greatest influences in the defensive structures we now see in our game, defensive structures that have seen the scoring in football drop to their lowest last year since 1967, and if the Marsh series is any indication then it’s not going to get better. Last year’s Marsh series produced 13 scores over 100pts on the way to that low scoring season, and this year we had 7, so if you are holding out hopes for big scores in 2020, you might be disappointed.
Of course, then you get David King coming out and suggesting inroducing the rule where the last team that touches the ball when it goes out is penalized. It’s a suggestion he’s been banging on about for years and whilst it has some merit, we are again mucking around with the fabric of the game, and it has the potential to render ruckman surplus to needs in the modern game. No one wants that.
The stupidity in the suggestions to reducing the on-field numbers or the out of bounds rule, and really the majority of the decisions made by the AFL to speed up the game and increase scoring over the past decade, is that the first thing all coaches will do is find a way to limit the damage the changes make. They will always look at how to defend against it before how to use it to score. You are still going to have large numbers of players around the ball, so taking 4 blokes away isn’t going to do much, nor is having the situation where teams are avoiding taking control of the ball near the boundary line for fear of penalty or situations where the umpire has to guess who touched it last in marking contests.
So, in my opinion, there are two ways to improve scoring in my opinion, and they are as follows:
1: Leave the rules alone:
Simple really. Just leave the game alone and let it sort itself out. The game will get to a point where defence is at its maximum efficiency, so coaches will have to look at other ways to win, i.e. score.
We saw this in 2007 when after several years of, let’s say dour footy, Geelong changed the game through attacking use of the footy, using run and handball through the middle of the ground and become an attacking juggernaut. They still had a strong defence, but they were able to move the ball quickly and the game started to change.
Whilst Lyon-led teams were defending hard and playing defensive footy, guess which teams kept winning the flag? The teams that attacked! Hawks in 2008 had two forwards that kicked nearly 200 goals between them, Geelong saluted again in 2009 and 2011 playing attacking footy and the Pies won in 2010 with the second-best offence (Geelong was again top), averaging 100+ pts a game.
Even last year, in a low scoring year, the side that rocketed up the ladder was the Lions, and guess who was the highest scoring team in the game? Yep, the Lions.
Coaches will always look at ways to limit scoring and scrap a win. They aren’t paid on aesthetics; they are paid on results. Eventually, though they will have to find ways to score, so let’s leave things go and we’ll see how the game develop. In the 70s, the handball became a real weapon, the 80s were the years of the big key forward, the 90’s saw Pagans paddock and as the flood came in, we still saw the successful teams like Brisbane and the Cats win the premiership with an attacking mindset. It will turn, we just have to be patient
2: Change the points system on the ladder:
If you want to increase scoring, then create an incentive to score.
There are two options here
A: bonus points: They do it in cricket, in the Sheffield shield, where you still get points for first inning and outright wins, but you also get bonus points for runs scored or wickets taken in the first 100 overs of your first inning. It encourages attacking play.
Super Rugby has a bonus point system, and though a little convoluted, offers a bonus point to the winning team if they score 3 more tries than their opposition.
In AFL, you could have it that you get bonus points for scoring over 100pts. And it could work something like this.
If you score;
100-110 – 0.2 bonus points
110-125 – 0.4 bonus points
And so on. Now this doesn’t matter if you win or lose. It goes purely on your score.
Example – Richmond 120 d West Coast 110, then Richmond gets 4.4pts for the game, West Coast get 0.2pts.
Or, if you want to do it the easy way, just do what Leigh Matthews said, and give teams 1 extra premiership point if they score over 100pts, win, lose or draw.
B: Remove percentage, and just go on ‘Points for’ on the ladder for deciding ladder positions
Basically, it means if you are tied on points, then the team that scores more will be put ahead on the ladder.
It’s simple and easy to work out. Would also make for some interesting viewing in the closing rounds if teams needed to run up a score to make finals. To hell with defence, let’s just score!!
Now I realise Option 2 isn’t perfect, as the draw isn’t even and we play at different grounds which have different sizes and shapes and conditions (Marvel has a roof, others don’t etc) but it will ultimately even out in the end.
Ultimately though these two easy decisions can be made with no actual effect on the rules of the game or the game itself. It simply opens up opportunity to teams that are prepared to take the risk.
As a supporter of the game, I just want to see the game I love played in the best possible way. Sure, I’m just as happy if my team wins 50-40 as I am if we win 100-90, but I think we all want the game to be more open and attacking.
Who doesn’t want to see the best players take the game on?
to see forwards kick bags of goals again?
For the majority of us watching now, it’s what we’ve grown up with, so here’s hoping we can get it back.