Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Desperate Need for Common Sense In AFL Umpiring

The immortal commentator Lou Richards made Legends of many in his glorious stint behind the microphone with the excitable rise in the tone of his voice always endearing the figures to all.  

These parts of commentary folklore, that many have tried to replicate but few have embodied Louie the Lips' unique magic logically always revolved around the stars of the show in the players. But one that stood out clear as a bell in my mind for it involved the mortal enemy for all fans in his labelling of the iconic Indigenous Umpire Glen James as ' Jesse James........the fastest book in the West.......'

It was in homage of James being a stigler to the rules and authoritarian in his application of them, but like with all his targets it was also in appreciation of James's mastery in the ruling of the game. That homage seen in the fact that James was a true Rule Nazi with no diverting from the letter of the Law, but the thing that made him Legend with a truckload of Respect was the fact that he could marry common sense with his strict interpretations. Which at the time was supported by a set of rules that were simplistic in their viewpoint allowing a bit of out of the square application

A quality that 30 years on seems foreign to the people running the game which has lead Umpires to the edge of the Abyss in the terms of credibility.

The crux of the matter is the frequent changes in the rules and with them the complexity in being able to apply them with little or no scope to counter the players who will delve into the grey areas to gain an edge. The most infamous example of this in recent times revolves around the ruling of the Head being sacrosanct with any contact to it leading to a free kick. Which on paper was met by great applause from all sections of the AFL faithful with symbolically the Mothers of the next generation feeling confident to allow their precious little ones to indulge in a game that was increasingly being labelled too rough and dangerous.

Beautiful in its ideal, but so open to manipulation in its application with it giving rise to the brainiacs of the League like Joel Selwood to grab the ball and instantly dive head first into his opponent....

Head sacrosanct....whistle blows....free to Selwood

Inspiring the cynics to swear Teams were having sessions to mimic Selwood's expert milking of the rules and with it a farce attached the the games governance that has rarely been seen

In defence of the Umpires, their hands were tied by the League being naive to realise that with a rule like this that it was bound to be manipulated. When they should have greeted their needless tinkering of the rules with a bit of good old wholesome common sense allowing for that cynical ploy by the likes of Selwood to be punished rather than rewarded

Instead, as with everything that greets criticism of Umpiring standards and interpretation it was dismissed by vehement denial which in effect has given rise to a new wave of simulation within the game. Which has been seen most pertinently around the ruling of the contentious holding the ball rule in its sole interpretation and how it relates to the presence of an in the back infringement within the tackle.

Which has seen players numerous times this year be in possession, feel a fair tackle pin them and ingeniously buckle at the knees carrying the weight of the tackler in a diving motion forward leading to all to see the rouse. Then be outraged when the whistle blows and the Umpire awards in the back rather than holding the ball....

The sad thing of this brief example is I could cite many examples of how the game is being exploited through the loopholes discovered in rules, and their rulings which makes you wonder why the Big Heads running the game cannot see the same.

If it is indeed through a choice of denial to the obvious, the end result will inevitably be the game that we all love being stripped of all its credibility

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