Editorial: New rules and laws

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By Michael Sholly

It is important VAFA supporters understand the new VAFA rules and the changes in the AFL Laws of the Game and the effect this has on our matches. It is an aim of the VAFA to have our laws as closely aligned to the AFL as possible but with slight adjustments to facilitate a better game for the VAFA.

The most obvious difference we see every week is that we have a 25 metre penalty compared to a 50 metre penalty in the AFL. This adjustment is due to the size of the ground, the comparative skill in depth of kicking and the extra pressure this places on umpires when making decisions. With similar rationale the VAFA has moved in line with the AFL that a player’s intention must be to keep the ball in play on all occasions. We must; however, consider the skill level of the players participating when applying the law.

Unfortunately, this rules makes for an interpretation from the umpires and what one umpire and supporter believes is deliberate is not seen the same way as another. In future, we will consider taking the pressure off the umpires and if the ball is kicked out of bounds, whether on the full or after it has bounced, then a free kick would be paid to the opposition. This takes out the subjectivity for the umpire.

There shouldn’t be any such ambiguity in the application of the 10 metre rule surrounding the player after marking or being awarded a free kick. This one is far easier for our umpires to officiate as there is a clear definition. Whilst there will be some allowance given during the adjustment period, especially if the player has no effect on the players ability to play on, we will apply this rule more stringently as the players adjust.

The biggest change to the VAFA Laws is the rule relating to the penalty for a reported player who receives a red card. If you were at one of the games on the weekend where a player was reported you would have noticed that the player was able to be replaced. At our rules meeting with clubs in November, this change was tabled and overwhelmingly supported at our Member’s Meeting. There were a number of reasons why there was an adjustment to this rule.

Firstly, the game has changed dramatically since the introduction of the red card and the order off rule. The game was a lot more aggressive and physical and this was seen as a way of deterring intentional actions towards opposition players. Now, many of the reports are for negligent contact rather than intentionally causing harm to an opposition player. Having 17 players on the field is viewed as too harsh a penalty, especially if the player is found not guilty at the tribunal. The effect of 17 players on the ground is far more dramatic with the style the game is played in today. The running and continuous play that is promoted in amateur football requires the full complement of players on the field.

In 2006 the VAFA brought in the Black Card for serious offences where the player punished was not replaced for 12 minutes of playing time and the reported player could not return for the rest of the match.  In the ten year period or some 20,000 matches the Black Card has been used only seven times.  With the change of the rules of the Red Card it may be appropriate to enforce with stricter interpretation the Black Card for any intentional reportable offence. This will be monitored by the Football and Umpiring Departments of the VAFA during the course of the season to ensure the integrity of the competition is not compromised.

The VAFA and the AFL share the same philosophies of participating in an open, continuous game of football. Stoppages cause congestion and do not produce the style of football the VAFA players and spectators desire.