News that the AFL has commissioned a
report into slowing down the game can only be described as ludicrous, not
because slowing the game down is a bad idea, but because the AFL only just finished
speeding it up.

Footy fans with even the shortest memory
will recall the panic in the weeks leading up to the first round of the NAB Cup. Coaches,
players, ex-players, and commentators were concerned the new kick-in rule would
place even more pressure on players’ bodies to cope with the modern game, among
other things.

Now news has come through that the AFL wants to slow the
game down again, ostensibly to reduce injuries like those suffered by Justin
Koschitzke, Ryan Crowley, and Scott Harding as a result of heavy but legal
bumps.

But they’re not planning to do it by
repealing the new kick-in rule, which was designed primarily to make the game
more continuous, but may also be creating more high speed collisions. According
to the AFL a new rule is needed to slow down general play, so they are looking
at limiting the number of interchanges per game.

As the Herald Sun reported this morning, AFL House has commissioned a report from Kevin Norton, professor of
exercise at the University of South Australia, who says restricting the number
of interchanges to 30 (from an average this season of 45) would be enough to
fatigue players and slow the game down, thereby reducing the damage of those
collisions.

What the AFL can’t control of
course is how clubs will respond to the new rule if it is introduced. In their
view, the fittest, fastest players will still get the ball, so it’s reasonable
to assume clubs will expect a higher level of fitness. Is the AFL also going to
commission a report into the potential physical costs to footballers of
training and playing like marathon runners?

Possibly. In the end though, it might just
be easier to introduce another new rule designed to speed the game up again.

Peter Fray

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