By RHYS CLARK.
Recent tactics have prompted the AFL to crack down on players who slide into contests to gain possessions.
The move comes about after several incidents caused injury to players, the most severe being a season-ending broken leg to promising young Sydney Swans player Gary Rohan.
Following the advice from the AFL Medical Directors and AFL Medical Officers Association the AFL has instructed umpires to fully enforce existing rules by paying free kicks against players who slide into a contest feet or knees first.
As a result of the trend, which was first noticed last season, the AFL introduced the ‘2012 Laws DVD’, to give to clubs at the beginning of the home and away season.
With the sliding tactics continuing to cause injury problems and concern for the AFL, the leagues has tightened the rule so that now players will be penalised for sliding into a contest regardless of whether they had first possession or not.
In a memo to AFL clubs on April 27, General Manager of Football Operations Adrian Anderson said:“”The action of sliding itself is not prohibited. However, players have a duty of care not to slide where it is reasonably foreseeable that this may cause injury to others.
“In particular players risk offending under the rough conduct rule if they slide: Feet or knees first where they should know contact to an opponent could result; or late into a contest and with force (regardless of whether it is feet/knees first or not)”.
AFL is increasingly becoming a fast-paced game and players have almost no time to weigh up their options. It is a game of instinct.
It is no wonder that fans are becoming increasingly frustrated at the AFL as it was once a sport where bravery was rewarded and not punished.
The rules are set in place by the AFL to protect its players and they should be applauded for doing so, but players will always find a way to push the boundaries of these rules to gain the upper hand.
In recent years the AFL has introduced stricter ‘holding the ball’ rules where a player cannot dive onto the ball to try and gain possession as it is seen to slow the pace of the game and to avoid head-high contact.
An introduction of new rules into the AFL has generally taken players and umpires awhile to adjust and completely understand the interpretation of the rule.
The increasing pressure put on umpires to adjudicate on sliding may see a very strict interpretation of the rule, with many more free-kicks awarded when perhaps they shouldn’t be, making players unsure about what they can and cannot do.
The tactics indeed need to be umpired as the avoidable injury to Gary Rohan proves, but it begs the question of how can players gain possession of the ball in such a fast paced game, where split second decisions are the fabric of the game.
The AFL has said they will continue to monitor sliding tactics and make judgement on whether a permanent rule change needs to be implemented.