Mark Robinson says that the current interpretation of the deliberate out of bounds rule is hurting the traditional spirit of football, with the journalist scathing of the AFL’s decision to alter the rule for this season.
The new interpretation of deliberate out of bounds has seen additional focus placed on the player to keep the ball in play at all times, rather than the player in possession of the ball strictly disposing it towards the boundary line on purpose.
The chief football writer for the Herald Sun says that the tighter ruling goes against the spirit of the game and the entertainment value AFL football provides for spectators.
“This is a joke,” Robinson said on SEN’s The Run Home on Thursday.
“The David Zaharakis decision at Adelaide Oval three weeks ago was the worst decision I have seen in my time of watching football. He kicked the ball from the centre circle, it landed between wing and half forward, barrelled and rolled and went out and it was deliberate.
“Honestly right now I believe we are guinea pigs… what we are seeing right now is that it is not good for the spirit of the game.
“The AFL has one thing they must look after at all times, and it is that this game must stay as entertainment.”
AFL operations manager Simon Lethlean defended the controversial rule, stating that the stricter interpretation isn’t that much different than what it was in 2016, and that it is the players and fans being more in-tune with the rule that is creating the added scrutiny.
“It’s no different from how it was implemented last year apart from the fact that players and fans are now much more on to the fact that it needs to be a sufficient intent for the player to keep the ball in,” he said.
David Schwarz was more critical of the other controversial rule change for the 2017 season, the banning of the third-man up in ruck contests.
The former Melbourne forward says the rule was an overreaction to what he believes to be a small amount of injuries to ruckmen from additional players jumping into them during ruck contests.
“There weren’t too many injuries to ruckmen. Aaron Sandilands copped a knee in the ribs but there weren’t too many other ruckmen that were going down from a third-man up collision, maybe a couple of corkies,” Schwarz said.
“A backman for 15 times a game will hit a forward as a third-man up to defend the ball away. You can’t protect players if it’s not really warranted.
“You might be protecting ruckmen to a miniscule degree but then you’re taking another 300 players out of the game that can’t use their initiative and go third-man up.
“This is another by-product of a rule that has been brought in without too much research done on it.”
Lethlean however says that the new ruck rules have been successful in protecting the impact of ruckmen on the modern game.
“There are a number of unique aspects of our game that we look to protect and one of those is that any player can play our sport, including 210 centimetre ruckmen,” he said.
“We are looking after the ruck contests in this regard. We think it was getting to the stage where third and fourth-men up was actually diluting the ruck contest and the stoppage mechanisms in our game.
“I think it’s now actually clear cut and clean compared to the way it was.”
Lethlean also confirmed that the last touch out of bounds rule recently implemented in the SANFL – where the last player who touched the ball before it goes out of play concedes a free kick to the opposition - isn’t on the cards for a trial for next year’s pre-season competition.