Stop and Go
By Foti Mantis

In the last few years, Australian Football has taken a frightening path towards becoming a stop-and-go game. One could argue that it has always been a type of game that is centered around winning stoppages and controlling possession through marks. But, when you think of the term ‘footy,’ and maybe even when you try to describe the sport to an unfamiliar spectator, what comes to mind is the excitement, speed and aggressiveness associated with what some would call ‘a dangerous sport.’

When we think of footy, we don’t think of stoppages. We think of counter-attacking football, players with elite speed, teams with incredible ball movement; but, most especially, we think of goals.

The worry for fans of footy is whether the AFL is trying to mould Australia’s national sport into a replica of American Football. The NFL (National Football League) is one of the most watched sports in the world and millions of people tune in to the Super Bowl on TV every year. On that same day, some of the world’s biggest brands sponsor the event and pay millions of dollars for a single commercial during the breaks. The half-time show alone is enough for the event to attract global attention, especially on social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube. From the AFL’s perspective, this is something that Australia should be aiming towards. In this case, they are right. But it is a fine line between global exposure and the ruin of a national sport. 

As mentioned before, footy is a unique sport in the sense that it asks players to put themselves on the line for their team’s success (without protective gear). However, the sport has begun to ask players to do something else; that is, play competitively, but control your aggression. As a player, it’s difficult to enforce that type of message into your performance. Aggression is an important part of this sport, and the constant rule changes to ‘protect’ players seems to be doing more harm to the game than good.

Disregarding this season, the amount of goals scored in each game has been dropping dramatically. In 2018, the AFL’s average scores were the lowest ever seen for 52 years (83.1 points per game). Unless it’s a total blowout, you won’t see a game where both teams kick 20 goals in a competitive match of footy. Gone are those days. Instead, now it’s considered lucky if a single game can consist of 20 goals (in total).

With this in mind, it’s important that we recognize what a ‘stop-and-go’ style of play could do to  he game. Alas, these continuing reinforcements of ‘protective footy’ rules do two things: slow down the pace of the game by rewarding more free kicks, resulting in less goals; and, most concerningly, pushes us closer towards a mimic of American-style Football.

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