Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said the introduction of starting position – a significant change that the AFL has tried out with three clubs and is under heavy consideration – would results in kids being less involved during junior games, and possibly even lead to loss of interest in playing the game altogether.
Beveridge, who has experience coaching in the amateur leagues and more recently coached his son’s team at junior level, cautioned against “adding layers” to what he called the “pure game”.
While the higher scoring and fast, free-flowing football led viewers wondering whether coaches had taken a different approached, Beveridge attributed some of the more attacking, line-breaking play in the exhilarating Bulldogs v Geelong game last weekend to the faster ball-ups and throw ups that speed up general play.
Beveridge’s strongest viewpoint was that there was zero need for starting positions at stoppages, one of the measures being considered by the AFL through the direction of new football boss Steve Hocking who has held trial runs in which three or four players must remain in the defensive or forward 50 at each ball up or throw in.
And once the ball is thrown up, or tossed in, only then can those players move freely.
Beveridge said he was against starting positions purely because of what he had seen at under 18 level and in the women’s state league.
“The main reason is I’ve seen what happens at TAC level and I know what’s happening in the VFL women’s game. It will ruin the game at junior level and kids will go and play other codes,” Beveridge told Fairfax Media.
“It becomes too sterile and kids will be out of the game for too long. They’ll even be getting cold and they’ll want to play a game where they’re involved all the time.
“You’ve got to remember, kids can’t kick that far. And neither can the girls.
“The great thing, we’ve learned from the round-ball game, we’ve learned to reduce the numbers of the field size … to increase kids’ involvement, and that’s a good thing. But that’s okay because the rules don’t really change and you keep the involvement level up.
“Futsal changed, you know, the game of soccer – it became even more contagious and we’ve learned from that. But probably a bit too late.”
Beveridge remarked on the attraction of last Friday’s game.
“I can’t talk for Chris [Scott], but … I’ve always had a healthy appetite for risk, the way I’ve always coached my team,” Beveridge added.
Beveridge said the coaches had kept six forwards in place “forward of the ball” during the game.
“That’s a bit of a rarity,” he said.
“The only small shift has been stoppages happening slightly quicker.”
He also remarked on the consideration of reducing the interchange cap from the current limit of 90 – another change which he claims would “create layers” to the game, forcing coaches to play “a game of chess”.