AFL rule changes are back on the agenda.
On Wednesday the Herald Sun revealed the AFL is welcoming ideas — including reducing 18-man teams to 16.
It makes absolutely no sense.
Perhaps Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson’s influence and power over the AFL has become too much.
On the eve of the season, Clarkson joined Garry and Tim on SEN Breakfast and made these surprising comments.
"We probably have to consider pulling some levers in the game. One of the charters of the game was we wanted to retain 18 v 18," the Hawks coach said.
"If defences have become so sophisticated at being able to use 18 men to defend, I wonder if they could defend as well with 16? Becuase one of the things that we wnated to retain in our game was high scoring.
"In terms of the charter of the game, we don't want to be like soccer, we want to be able to score."
In that same week back in March, former Fremantle and St Kilda coach and one of the smartest minds in the game, Ross Lyon, echoed Clarkson’s comments.
Speaking to The Age before round one, Lyon admitted he would "go to 16 players because everything works on a string. If you take out two moving pieces, it's going to be harder for some of those defensive mechanisms to stay intact. They'd break down a hell of a lot quicker."
"The easiest way would be to take the wingers off, so you know, just play with 16," added Lyon, who has moved back to Melbourne from Perth.
I was staggered at the time by both Lyon and in particular Clarkson’s comments. I’m even more surprised the AFL would entertain messing with the game and its fabric so drastically.
What a ridiculous overreaction that move would be.
The thought of AFL becoming a 16-a-side game with no wingmen doesn’t make sense and there are a host of subtle and minor tweaks that we should look at before making this giant leap.
Slashing the length of quarters to 16 and a half minutes plus time-on is extreme enough and also makes no sense considering the compromised season fixture will look largely normal with standard break between games for each team.
I’m yet to understand why this is a good change as we look to return to a largely normal looking season, minus the crowds.
The game was in great shape, players are stronger, faster, more explosive, better all-round athletes and fiercer tacklers than in any previous era.
The AFL and world sport in general have been dealt its most challenging blow, but that doesn’t mean we need scrap all that was good before this disease hit.
And we certainly don’t need the game’s best coach telling us otherwise. Has Clarkson’s influence at AFL House become unhealthy?
I have a two-step solution that would increase scoring, limit congestion and increase one-on-one contests.
Slash interchange rotations. I’d like to see a limit of 40. 10 per quarter only. It’s obvious, fatigue the players so they are physically incapable of applying the frantic pressure and defensive systems we see in the current game. Skills will improve due to the lack of pressure; congestion will ease and scoring will increase.
Implement last possession out of bounds free-kick. It’s been a raging success at SANFL level and something the AFL has been briefed by the SANFL on and is already considering.