Essendon legend Dustin Fletcher thinks doubling length of goalsquare could help congestion
JON RALPH, Herald Sun
June 13, 2018 8:03pm
KICK-OUT specialist Dustin Fletcher says an 18m goalsquare being seriously considered by the AFL could be a congestion-busting solution.
The AFL has narrowed down nine possibilities from over 30 potential rule changes and tweaks it believes could free up a game mired in 18-man zones and 30-man packs around the ball.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said there would be “change” by October so clubs could plan for the 2019 season.
Champion Data stats show in the past decade it is twice has hard to move the ball from end to end given the 18-man zones now on show at kick-ins.
Some who have been consulted on the potential changes to the rules believe an 18m goalsquare will be introduced to help defences clear zones.
It would allow players to kick torpedoes to the centre square, kick to a wider part of the field and potentially push zones further back down the ground, relieving congestion.
Fletcher was one of the best kick-out exponents in the league in 400 AFL games, able to use finesse or his long levers to turn defence into attack.
He told the Herald Sun a longer goal square would allow players to become more aggressive with ball movement.
“There is no doubt it would give you more options as the person kicking in,’’ Fletcher said.
“You would feel like you are out in the actual playing field rather than back with the cheer squad.
“If you were that far up and could kick the ball 55m-60m you would be hitting it nearly to the centre square.
“Having a really good think about it, the coach would have to push his zone deeper and they might have to play a defender back inside 50.
“If you get it over the zone you would need a forward to kick it to and so you might leave a forward back deeper as well.”
In modern football teams often concede a short kick to the pocket then attempt to turn the ball over with 18 men pushing up to defend.
GWS forward Jeremy Cameron’s dam-busting goal to beat Richmond last year is a rarity, with sides going from defensive 50 to attacking 50 only 20 per cent of the time.
From 1859 to 1876 football had an 18-metre goal square which went all the way across what were rectangular grounds played on fields.
Football eventually was invited to play in cricket fields, with the nine metre (10 yard) goal square coming into play from 1877 onwards.
McLachlan said yesterday he wanted changes made to free up the game without making it obvious for the football fan.
“He (football operations manager Steve Hocking) will look as widely as possibly as he can, I think he’s looking at 30-odd different things and he’ll work through that and if it’s zero it’s zero, if it’s 10 it’s 10, if it’s 30 it’s 30, and I’ll be clearly prosecuting where they land but I know he’s going to have a really strong set of recommendations,’’ he told SEN.
“I think that Steve will come up with change, yes, I don’t think we’re going to be in the status quo. What that looks like I don’t know yet.”