The AFL have put a new rule in place for 2013 to stop the injuries caused by the desperation challenges so vital to the game.
All 15 captains who were in Melbourne to mark the launch of the 2013 season had mixed feelings about the rule; eight of the captains were flat-out against it.
Under the new guidelines, a free kick will be awarded against a player who makes forceful contact below the knees of an opponent. The rule change was prompted by a catastrophic injury to Sydney Swans player Gary Rohan last season when playing against North Melbourne.
Adelaide’s captain Nathan Van Berlo called for the law to be dropped and is worried it would be misinterpreted by umpires and players, telling Fox Sport “That’s how we played our footy growing up, so to remove that completely from the game is going to be very difficult.”
St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt, however, felt that “anything that protects players from serious leg injuries is good”.
Gold Coast captain Gary Ablett said it would take time for players to get used to the new rule. “It is one of those things that the players will have to learn to adapt to.”
Most players want knee-first contact outlawed but some are not sold on the rule. Sydney co-captain Jarrad McVeigh said an incident in Sydney’s trial match against Port Adelaide last weekend, when a free kick was awarded against Dan Hannebery, proved the rule was not clearly understood. “Dan kept his feet, picked the ball up and a player dived at his legs with their head and they got the free kick for high contact, but Hanners got hit below the knees, so we couldn’t work it out,” McVeigh told the Herald Sun.
Despite players’ doubts the rule could help see off the sickening injuries that result from head-first contests. Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge summed it up: “Hopefully it doesn’t affect the game too much or change too much about it.” – Blake Moretti
Top photo from ~Prescott’s Flickr photostream.