If AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan and Football Operations Manager, Steve Hocking were synchronised swimmers, I dare say they would not be particularly successful. In fact, I am certain they would be pretty unsuccessful.

Perhaps their true talents lie in a sport such as gymnastics where they could be able to showcase their graceful backflipping techniques they have perfected so brilliantly in recent times. Perhaps horse racing due to their practice of getting up on high horses about the integrity of the game and so forth then proceed to gallop away as fast as they can from their original statements down the straight.

Alas, McLachlan and Hocking are in charge of AFL; the self-appointed guardians of the world’s finest sport; Australian Rules Football. Well it remains that for the moment anyway. Who knows what we are playing next year?

So where are we now? Steve Hocking, the man entrusted with changing the face of football, now has more committees than you can poke a cliché at. He’s told us that change is a coming to the game – and lots of it with one of the revolving door of committees already recommending six rule changes, with potentially up to six more to come. For these rule changes to be inscribed into the rule book it still needs to be approved by the executive and the AFL Commission.

We know that one of these recommended changes is the introduction of zones or the “six-six-six” model to distract you from the fact that they actually are zones. For those unaware, this is not the anti-density style zones that are effective at every stoppage but rather are “starting positions” only relevant for centre bounces. Clubs overwhelmingly prefer this model of zones basically because zones at stoppages will be a disaster for the game, with players hastily retreating to a certain area of the ground dependent on an umpire’s ruling of holding the ball or a stoppage.

Starting positions at centre bounces will make absolutely no difference whatsoever. This is a problem because the two wingers can stand wherever they want, so you can still practically flood the defence if need be and the rule becomes null and void once the ball hits the turf to reset play in the centre. Malcolm Blight spoke of the possibility of a designated spot for wingers to stand on at the centre bounce… like the naughty little boys they are!

Doubling the length of the goal square from nine to eighteen metres is also one of the committee’s six recommendations, as is restricting the use of runners for only after goals. So, Hocking has said that changes will be made at an unprecedented scale declaring the days of the rule “tweak” over, and stating “it definitely won’t be one thing, because it won’t be enough. I’d sooner do nothing.”

If only…

Hocking believes the game is in such a perilous state that we need a “marriage” of at least “three or four” things to save it. Yet, when asked if exhilarating games such as the classic Essendon-North Melbourne encounter from a few weeks ago had any effect on his decision making, he declared that great games like that are even more of a reason to introduce new rules. That makes sense, right? Like how you are more likely to go to the mechanics if there is nothing wrong with your car than if there is and you actually need to go. Or how you would want to go to hospital if you are feeling fine rather than if you are having a stroke. See? Complete sense.

However, last week Hocking dropped a bombshell that despite all indications rule changes are set for next season he told SEN that “we are not talking potentially this happening in 2019” and “it may not be next year, it could be the year after, it could be the year after that”.

This, of course prompted Gillon McLachlan to announce the day after that “there will be some changes (next season)”. Does that clear everything up?

Well, at least clubs can be clearer when the AFL categorically guaranteed to them that “there will never again be any rule changes in-season” as reported by the Herald Sun’s Sam Edmund. It is this guarantee that the AFL has been hiding behind amidst the outcry over the ruck nomination fiasco that is currently in play. This is despite protests from clubs wanting it to be changed immediately to avoid the situation like last year when Port Adelaide’s Paddy Ryder was penalised after the umpire did not hear the All Australian ruckman’s repeated nominations. This resulted in West Coast scoring in the elimination final that ended in extra time.

So naturally, Gillon McLachlan comes up with the “emerging view is that I think it is (appropriate)” in regards to trialing potential rule changes this season in Home and Away games that he thinks will “not have any bearing on the eight”. After a day of outrage, Steve Hocking was forced employ some of those gymnastic skills to backflip on McLachlan’s behalf, repositioning that it was more likely rules will be trialed via second tier competitions than in so-called dead rubbers.

As Hocking said the state leagues of the SANFL, VFL and WAFL are “queuing up” to be a part of the trial. By “queuing up” he obviously meant they “have not – and will not – approach the AFL offering to trial any of their rules” as the SANFL, the country’s biggest state league, confirmed on Thursday. Also, on Thursday, the AFL revealed that they are only looking to trial games in ‘dead rubbers’ that cannot affect the draft order. Unfortunately, for the AFL they do not realise that every single game for the rest of the season can affect the AFL ladder and hence, the draft order in some way.

In fact, why is anyone talking about rule changes? Hocking said himself on Wednesday that it is not about rule changes at all when clearly “it is about game adjustments there is a lot of discussion externally about rule changes. Where we are getting to in all the work we have been doing … and moving towards is about game adjustments”.

See, it’s all the people “externally” that have been confusing us saying it is about rule changes. Let’s blame them for your stuff-ups. Even though, you have never once mentioned “game adjustments” and always referred to these ramblings as “rule changes” every time you have been given a microphone – but let’s forget about that.

Let’s also pretend that there is a difference between “rule changes” and “game adjustments” and also pretend that you offered some kind of explanation as to what the difference is. While we are at it, lets imagine that this magical difference is the reason that AFL fans should take “a level of calmness” away.

Gil and Steve, do us all a favour – go have a coffee, a deep breath and get your stories straight, because this circus needs to end and so do the lies. As it currently sits, no one can rest easy knowing that the fate of the game is in your hands.

If we cannot trust your words – how can anyone have faith in your actions?


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