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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Centre Bounce: How the AFL can stop the time-wasting loophole

It’s time for the AFL to close a loophole which has the potential to undermine the finals series and cause outrage among fans.
Clubs are already taking advantage of the 30-second shot clock which allows them to legally waste time and then pass the ball.
The tactic was used multiple times last weekend and Richmond have shown their desire to use the loophole several times in recent matches.
One example occurred midway through the second quarter on Friday night. Jack Riewoldt made perfect use of the loophole, despite the Tigers leading by 44 points.
He was more than 50m from goal but asked the umpire for 30 seconds to take a shot. Riewoldt waited for 27 seconds and then, instead of taking that shot, he pulled his kick to 20m from goal. The Tigers created a contest, Dion Prestia crumbed the pack and kicked a goal.
Richmond did the same thing against Sydney in round 16. Shane Edwards marked just outside 50 with 2:22 remaining in the game. The Tigers already led by 25 points but he took 24 seconds and then attempted to pass the ball 15m to Trent Cotchin.
Those incidents had no impact on the results but it showed how Richmond is preparing for finals. Given the Tigers are the reigning premiers, teams are already following their lead.
Melbourne successfully used the tactic to beat Carlton in round 16 last season.
Alex Neal-Bullen marked the ball with 65 seconds remaining when the Demons were leading by two points. Knowing that a missed shot would give Carlton the ball and thereby the chance to win the game, he waited until there was 39 seconds remaining before slowly walking in to take his shot.
But instead of kicking for goal, he chipped the ball to Jordan Lewis and he took a mark with 31 seconds remaining. Lewis held onto the ball until the siren rang and Melbourne soaked up more than one minute for just one disposal.
The current interpretation requires players to start moving forward before their 30 seconds expires. North Melbourne forward Ben Brown has a massive run-up which has seen him moving forward for eight seconds. What he is doing is totally legal.
We could see a scenario where a player takes a mark 50m from goal then goes back to the centre circle to start his run-up. He waits for 29 seconds, wastes almost 10 seconds walking in and then passes the ball 15m to a teammate who repeats the same thing.
Is that how we want a final to be decided?
I can already hear some people yelling “leave the laws alone.” But the 30 second shot clock isn’t an actual law. It is not mentioned anywhere in the law book. It is an interpretation of law 17.2 (f) which says play on shall be called if “a player, awarded a mark or free kick, fails to dispose of the football when directed to do so by the field umpire.”
The umpires have been told to call play on after between six and eight seconds for marks around the ground and 30 seconds for set shots.
The AFL could close the loophole by directing umpires to not allow teams a second opportunity to use the 30 seconds if they choose to pass the ball.
A more radical interpretation which would stop the Jack Riewoldt example is to pay a free kick for wasting time when a player deliberately doesn’t attempt to score after utilising the shot clock. Wasting time is covered under law 15.11.1 (a).
If the AFL changed this interpretation, it is highly unlikely the rules would ever be enforced. Players would simply use the shot clock for what it is designed for.
Imagine the anger if we get to grand final day and a game is decided by players deliberately wasting time. A small tweak in the interpretation will prevent this from even being a possibility.