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The first semi-serious AFL hit out between sides delivered just one 50-metre penalty paid for the restrictive new man on the mark rule from a hundred possible moments.
Despite anxiety from fans and clubs fearing troubled by another rule change and the excessive punishment of the punitive new rule which imposes a 50-metre penalty if the player on the mark moves in any direction once the umpire has called for them to ‘stand’ there was little evidence of the new rule in the practice match between the Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn.
Young Dog Laitham Vandermeer shows his new tricks.Credit:Getty Images
Umpire Matt Stevic who officiated in the match said there were about 100 moments when players were on the mark but only one player who was penalised for moving.
“It was pretty much a full length game and I think we paid one I reckon there might be 80 to 110 set plays or set kicks a game where we are calling the mark then we are either calling play on or we are telling the player to stand on the mark so from our perspective I think it went pretty well and think the players adjusted quickly to it,” Stevic said.
“There will be occasions a guy will take a mark and roll inboard quickly so a lot of the times we are not going to have the opportunity for us to call ‘stand’. Obviously for a slow play a guy takes a mark will go back and he might wait for or five seconds before he then plays on.
“Those opportunities, when a player comes in to stand the mark we will then say stand but look it happens 80 to 110 or 120 times a game.
“The fact that we paid one today out of all of those instances I think shows that there will be a significant mount of compliance to it and players have adjusted very well.”
Marcus Bontempelli of the Bulldogs is tackled by Hawthorn’s Ben McEvoy.Credit:Getty Images
Under the new rule this year a player on the mark must not move laterally, backwards or forwards even a step once the umpire has called ‘stand’ and a new five-metre exclusion zone for teammates and the opposition is created around the player with the ball.
“Today’s hit out if that is any indication I don’t think it will be a huge issue throughout the year,” Stevic said.
A video of a 50m penalty for a player taking half a step sideways during an Essendon intra club match went viral on Monday and drew stinging criticism from ex-players and fans.
The focus presently is on the moments of heavy punishment for a player on the mark who moves but the AFL believes the debate will shift once fans witness an improvement in ball movement, attacking play and scoring from the rule changes.
Being a practice match the intensity and defensiveness of the teams was far removed from a regular AFL game so it is difficult yet to assess the impact on the ball movement from the new rules.
Clubs have said that the new ‘stand’ rule and the protected zone opens up the corridor of the ground for the player with the ball to kick to.
Pre-season games are often more attacking and more offensive and the coaches are loathed to show their hand yet on changes they will implement in a new season.
One observable shift was from the kick-in where the man on the mark has been moved further back from the goal square to give the player kicking in more space.
That move saw the player kicking in more likely to play on out the front of the square, and therefore penetrate further up the field in the corridor, than had previously been the case.
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