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AFL must change this rule

With all the talk of rule changes in the AFL lately, there’s one rule that’s so hypocritical it needs to be changed immediately.

Showdown 45 was an epic game, but one which will unfortunately be talked about not for the efforts of all 44 players involved, but because of a contentious goal review decision that handed the Crows the lead and, ultimately, the game.

Don’t get me wrong, in my opinion the goal review decision fell the way it should. The goal umpire had awarded a goal, and asked for a review to see whether it shaved the post on the way through. In those circumstances there must be clear evidence of an incorrect decision. There wasn’t – goal stands.

You can argue (correctly) that the technology available at Adelaide Oval was inadequate and did not enable a close enough look at the decision. But the controversy masks a bigger issue – the rules regarding a ball that hits the post are, frankly, hypocritical.

In every other instance on an AFL field, a ball must cross the line completely in order for it to be ruled as having crossed the line. Boundary line calls are made this way, goal line calls are made this way. Yet balls hitting the post are not. A ball only has to shave the post for the lower (therefore negative) decision to be made. Why? The post is only there to identify the boundary between the goal scoring area and the point scoring area ( or the point scoring area and the boundary). It’s there to project that point in the ground vertically, because it would be impossible to judge scores otherwise. But really, it’s just another line. A line that happens to be made out of solid material, but a line nonetheless.

A ball that hits the post does not cross the line completely. It hits the line. In every other circumstance on the ground, that leads to a decision in the affirmative. Ball doesn’t fully cross the boundary line? It’s still in play. Ball doesn’t completely cross the line before it’s touched? The ball is deemed touched. Why is it that the goal or point posts should be treated any differently?

The AFL seems to have a love affair with complicating things, but in this case it’s clear to me that there’s an opportunity to simplify things substantially. Treat the posts as they should be treated – as a line. If the ball hits the post and goes through the goals, it’s a goal. If it goes through the behinds, it a behind. Same for the point posts. Making this simple change would immediately eradicate one area of complexity (and hypocrisy) in the game and bring the professional sport of Australian Rules Football in line with EVERY other sporting code on the planet.

What if it bounces back into play, I hear you ask? For simplicity, it has to be play on. It’s play on in soccer, hockey, basketball, in fact any other sport that relies on physical structures to mark the goal area. Put simply, points are not scored unless the ball passes completely over the score line.

Making this change removes probably the most difficult aspect of the score review system. Goal line technology is far easier to implement than “post shaving” technology. Cricket’s snicko is not sophisticated enough to do the job, and the flashing bails tech invented by my old Henley beach mates will be prone to flashing every time a player or umpire touches a post. Hot spot seems an unnecessary expense, when the real issue lies in the contradiction of the rule itself, rather than the technology required to adjudicate it.

Make the change, Gil, and move on – it’s the easiest decision you’ll ever have to make.

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