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Fast, furious and free-wheeling: the AFL's new era


West Coast coach Adam Simpson labelled it a new frontier of football, media pundits deemed the Western Bulldogs “sexy” and the Crows match against the Kangaroos was wryly declared the fastest game of football ever played.

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Whatever you call it attacking footy is back in vogue in the AFL and the fans love it.

Fewer stoppages, fast free-flowing ball movement and higher scores contributed to one of the more exciting openings to an AFL season in recent memory.

Coaches have taken up the challenge thrown down by the AFL.

A number of measures including scrapping the substitute, reducing interchange rotations, the 10m exclusion zone and a stricter interpretation of the deliberate out of bounds rule were all brought in to speed the game up and produce more attacking football.

“I think probably all of those changes have hopefully helped make the game more enjoyable for those of us who go and watch,” AFL legend David Parkin said.

“The game had become so robotically determined by coaches with set plays and role responsibilities that the sheer joy of chasing the ball had probably been negated.

“So what’s happening now might give a little more freedom and a little encouragement to take risks. They might turn out to be costly on occasion but we’re certainly going to see teams score more readily.

“I think we need to give the lawmakers of the game a bit of credit.”

Anecdotal evidence of the change in game style is overwhelming but the numbers back up that observation too.

It’s only a small sample size but a quick comparison between last year’s opening round and this one is telling.

Nine teams cracked the 100-point barrier last weekend as opposed to a mere four last year and 190 more points were scored across the whole round, with teams averaging 97.1 points as opposed to 86.6 last year.

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley believes that AFL coaches have been prodded into a rethink and have generally responded with braver ball movement.

“I think what’s happened is [coaches] have gone ‘You know what? If we don’t go fast on offence their defence is going to smother us’,” Hinkley told SEN.

It’s exciting for the game, everyone’s talking about it, and I reckon its really good for footy

“That’s always going to open up opportunities, there’s going to be a few goals kicked out the back, but that’s just the way that the game is going to be played.

“The good sides will tighten it up and get [the balance] right. It’s exciting for the game, everyone’s talking about it, and I reckon its really good for footy.”

Parkin warns that defence has been king for so long that defensively-minded coaches will inevitably figure out new strategies but he’s hopeful the days of ultra-flooding and soccer-style scorelines are over.

“All of the decisions that have been made over the last couple of years by the custodians of the game are starting to bear fruit – I’ve certainly got my fingers crossed that’s the case anyway,” he said.

“We were running into a severe headwind [in recent years] where the enjoyment for those who play, those who watch and those who umpire was being reduced.

“So this might bring a new level of enjoyment and excitement and fun that the game needed an injection of.”


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