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AFL players hard done by coaches: Blight

Football

AFL coaches are squeezing the skill from the modern game and making life ever tougher for players, newly-anointed Legend Malcolm Blight says.

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As a result, he fears the AFL is becoming too similar to the rugby codes.

“We have got to be careful when you get 36 players in an eighth of the ground,” Blight told reporters today, a day after being declared an official Legend of the game by the AFL.

“I don’t reckon that was our game.

“I just reckon we have got to be careful we don’t become rugby (league) and we don’t become rugby union – they’re great games, let them stay there.

“We should keep our space. Space is what makes our game on the ground better.

“We can show our skills, and I just think at the moment the players are being hard-done-by, the way the game is perhaps being coached and the way it’s going.

“They’re not being able to display their skills but learning more how to tackle. And I don’t think that is the way the game should go.”

Now aged 67, Blight won both the Magarey Medal and Brownlow Medal. A match-winning forward, he also topped goalkicking in the SANFL and VFL in an 18-season playing career.

He switched to coaching and after three losing grand finals at Geelong, the South Australian delivered the Adelaide Crows premierships in 1997-98.

On receiving his latest honour last night, Blight said he was humbled at joining 26 other footballers with legend status.

Asked to reflect on the honour and football in his life, he added:

“It has been me.

“I just reckon there is a Sherrin in the heart.”

Blight celebrated his Legend status in subdued fashion, enjoying a few red wines with fellow inductees.

“Just quietly headed back to the hotel and just sat down with a few of the inductees and had a little sip,” he said.

Six others were inducted into the hall of fame: former umpire Brett Allen, ex-Adelaide captain and current Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin, South Australian great John Halbert, St Kilda and Sydney forward Barry Hall, North Melbourne stalwart Anthony Stevens and Collingwood’s Ron Todd.

Hall said in his acceptance speech that he was still affected by the 2008 Brent Staker incident when he dropped his opponent with a vicious left cross, behind the play.

“I do a lot of speaking stuff and guys like to be guys and say ‘ah, that was great’. It’s just a load of crap, it wasn’t great,” Hall said.

“I’m a father now and I don’t want my boy seeing his dad do that.

“Brent Staker has to live with that. I’m sure if his mates are like mine, they remind him every day about it, maybe in a light-hearted way. But he has to live through that.

“People he doesn’t know will be reminding him of it, so that does bother me.

“I’ve apologised but Brent Staker has to live through that.”

Inductee Brett Allen umpired 347 AFL matches from 1992-2007, including seven grand finals.

Goodwin is now Melbourne’s coach after being a dual premiership player at Adelaide, where he was a triple club champion.

Halbert played 244 games for Sturt between 1955-68, and was a Magarey Medallist and four-time club best and fairest before coaching in the SANFL.

Hall, who started at St Kilda before landing at Sydney, was a nine-time club leading goalkicker.

North Melbourne’s Stevens chalked up 292 games for North Melbourne from 1989-2004, including two premierships.

Todd played at Collingwood in the 1930s before a distinguished career at Williamstown through the 1940s.

Malcolm Blight’s legendary career

-AAP

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