Imagine that the rule changes imposed by the AFL in recent times were all required to be in the thought pipeline of administrators, players, coaches, umpires, media and fans for 24 months of more. Footy would be better for it. Many, probably most, of the issues would have evapourated over time, and we as fans would have been victim to fewer amendments.

I wish there was a general policy that all rule changes (except those enforced for safety reasons) needed to be deemed in serious consideration for two seasons before being forced upon the league. I feel there is far too much variation, too frequently and without adequate implementation processes.

Tripping is an illustrative example of the rollercoaster that is AFL officiating. Players used to get suspended for tripping. Suspended. Not warned, or paid a free kick against them, not just reported, but suspended. Due to the forceful hands of the powers that be, umpires during the matches were forced to get very tough on the issue. The novelty lasted approximately 6 rounds. It may have even cost one player a Brownlow Medal, however, that is an entirely different article, perhaps for another time!

Remember zero tolerance on back-chatting? You should, it was not too long ago. It came and went like 40 year-old virgin at a brothel. Contact with the umpires was another one, otherwise termed the Justin Koscitzke rule. Punching, touching or even brushing the arm of an opponent in a marking contest was prevalent at the commencement of season 2006, yet that too quickly faded like a cheap Thailand T-shirt.

Those types of rule changes are disastrously reactionary. The most beneficial tweaks to the AFL regulations are the precautionary ones. Primarily, I refer to two of the modern era; the centre ruck circle and the new ruling that protects the player with his head over the ball. Certainly Troy Simmonds would be a fan of that one from his days as a Grand Finalist Demon, not to mention the brave and underrated Blake Caracella. At least these concepts are logical, justified and generally agreed upon. Most others seem like the brain-children of a few men that are out of touch and have consumed too many chardonnays.

No touching a player if he marks, running an imaginary 30-second clock within the head of umpires as players shoot for goal, penalizing hard ball winning men for being on the ground and dragging a ball into their possession, not placing any hands on the back of an opponent, the list goes on. It is beyond preposterous. I am glad the competition has been able to frequently settle into subconsciously sought equilibrium over the years, despite being disrupted by such lunacy.

Unfortunately, the basis, the very nature of the code is difficult enough to explain. Adding to the confusion with annual tinkerings further darkens the clouds of misunderstanding. The most popular sports in the world are all attractive to consumers due to their straightforwardness. The marketing gurus at Corn Flakes were right, the simple things in life are often the best.

The regular alterations in rule book interpretations causes copious head scratching for stadium loads of loyal fans that are the air the AFL breathes. It seems to me that often the implemented changes are knee-jerk reactions to flash-in-the-pan ‘topics of the week’. It is infuriating. We need to show Australian Rules Football, its origins, its previous players, our sporting forefathers, more reverence. Let’s wait at least two years before we stain the sport with these aforementioned types of transformations. In a time when general contention from other sports has never been so widespread, as a unique, original and physical sport, AFL is gradually being depleted.

Article written by Mark Franklin from