AFL explain themselves; heap mud on deliberate rule

In one of the most physical, fiercely contested and difficult to officiate sports in the world, the AFL has sought to clarify their position on one of the most contentious rules in the book - deliberate out of bounds.

The official position from the AFL Laws of the Game Committee, presented by AFL Football Operations Manager Simon Leathlean, is players that show "insufficient intent" to keep the ball in, run the risk of being penalised.

The AFL has never been a black and white game, due to its physical nature, there's always been a lot of grey area, and that's where the most excitement is.

The bizarre and completely objectionable clarification of this inconsistent and unnecessary rule, is a throw back to former AFL umpires coach Jeff Gieschen, who attempted to explain a ludicrous "sufficient force" interpretation for push in the back.

In their efforts to eliminate a blight on their game, the AFL have created a new one, a far worse one, and one that's completely open to interpretation by the umpire at hand, whose interpretation cannot be guaranteed to be consistent.

Leathlean said that the "occasional" error in the first six rounds made it hard to communicate to the clubs, players and fans what the rule was, or that in general terms, was working.

"It's certainly a hardline stance that the players do everything they can to keep the ball in," Lethlean said.

"If players make a skill error, that should not be to their detriment."

There have been 72 free kicks paid for deliberate out of bounds so far this season, 14 down on last season when 86 were paid by the end of round 6; it's not the numbers that everyone is up in arms over, it's the consistency and the ludicrous decisions.

The numbers aren't what the players are worried about, they're clearly trying to keep the ball moving and in play; it's the shocking decisions by the umpires to penalise them for skill errors, kicks out of packs and calling it deliberate while the player is being tackled.

Swans hard nosed midfielder echoed those sentiments when he appeared on Channel 7's AFL Game Day.

“It’s a bad look,” Hannebery said.

“When it’s a quick kick out of a stoppage and you see a player almost chaperone the ball out of bounds, it’s really frustrating to see that get paid deliberate when in the spirit of the game you want to keep that ball flowing and not just see it ushered out and paid a free kick.”

Premiership player Jordan Lewis weighed in on the debate on his weekly Wednesday appearance on AFL 360, saying the stricter ruling was creating more problems than it was fixing.

"I personally think it's become a little bit ridiculous to be honest," Lewis said on Wednesday.

"It needs to be looked at because sometimes players don't have any other options."

"You look at the Jake Stringer one, you look at the Tom Boyd one," he said.

"The ball has literally bounced at right angles and we're playing with an oval ball that can bounce wherever – it's not predictable.

"So I think it certainly needs to be looked at.

"I sit at home as a viewer of the game and I get frustrated.

"I'm sure there's others out there like that and I don't support the last touch out of bounds is a free kick either."

Here's hoping the AFL still stop tinkering and just stick with one interpretation for the rest of the season instead of making it up on the run. It did not need to be changed this season.

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Justin Mitchell

Justin is a passionate AFL and Sydney Swans supporter, and football blogger since 2016. All articles are of his own opinion. You can reach him by twitter and Facebook at @theswansblog

Melbourne, Australia

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