AFL legend Leigh Matthews has hit out at critics of the league’s latest rule changes, stating those that don’t want to see change are “flat-Earthers”, per NewsCorp.
The AFL has lowered the maximum amount of interchange rotations from 90 to 75, moving the man on the mark from kick-ins back to 15 metres from 10 metres as well as having umpires crack down on lateral movement for players manning the mark.
A zone system has also been implemented into the new east coast second tier league mixed with clubs from the VFL and NEAFL, with the AFL trialling the change as a potential introduction for the 2021 season.
The zone system would see three players from each team be inside each 50m arc for kick-ins and throw-ins.
Many AFL players, media representatives and fans have lashed out at the changes, with Matthews having full confidence in the league.
“The flat-Earthers are the people that don’t want change,” Matthews said.
“What they refuse to see is that the game is being changed by the coaching staff and all the AFL as custodians of the game are trying to do is rescue it from being kidnapped.
“I’ve got full confidence that Steve Hocking and his AFL crew will do their job as custodians of the game and try to make it the best possible spectacle.”
Matthews added that modern day tactics have withdrawn the excitement from matches.
“The best thing that has happened to football in my opinion in the last couple of years is the 6-6-6 formation at centre bounces,” Matthews said.
“The game has got a terrific look at centre bounces when players are spread pretty much from end to end and I think the game is better if players are spread from end-to-end more often.
“I think the AFL knows this, but how do you make it happen because you can’t make it voluntary because coaches coach to win games of footy. Coaches aren’t coaching for the spectacle of the game.
“Basically making spread of the players mandatory is the ultimate solution to the objective of allowing more time and space for attacking flow.
“The (VFL) competition is largely a reserves competition I think, so you have got to trial it somewhere, but at least it gives it a look at something under match conditions, which I think is a good thing.”
The Hawthorn great did however have some queries into the new interchange cap.
“I am unsure whether the reduction of interchange will make a whole lot of difference, certainly 90 to 75 won’t,” Matthews said.
“But I understand the principle that even if you say we are going to take the interchange right back to 30 or 40, you’ve probably got to do it over two or three years. I understand that principle, just to let everyone adjust to that.
“Some people say if you brought interchange back to 30-odd that would solve the problem… but I’m not convinced it would solve the problem.
“The objective is clear, reduce congestion, increase attacking flow, what methods you employ that contribute to that is more a question than an answer. That’s the conundrum.”