There has been plenty of debate this week over whether or not to scrap the centre bounce completely in AFL, following reports the Umpires’ Association is pushing to abolish the long standing tradition.
It is certainly a uniquely Australian Rules feature and one which defines our game.
There is nothing more exciting than hearing the thud of the ball hit the turf to start an AFL game, followed by the roar of the crowd.
So why are the umpires in favour of abolishing the centre bounce in favour of simply throwing the ball up to start or restart play?
Many senior umpires are concerned about the shoulder and back issues which stem from bouncing the ball 20-30 times a game.
Bounces around the ground were scrapped in 2013 in favour of simply throwing the ball up to speed up the game and now the unique tradition could be gone all together.
It could see yet another change to the ruck contest after the AFL announced late last year, it was scrapping the third-man up, another fundamental rule unique to our game.
Another reason umpires want the bounce abolished, is that it is keeping some of the best decision makers out of the game.
“We have so many good decision makers who don’t get a game each week, or who get cut from the list because they can’t bounce, but we’ve got guys who can bounce like a magician who are getting a game with their poor decision making,” former player and AFL umpire Jordan Bannister told RSN Breakfast on Wednesday morning.
So as fans, we love the tradition of the centre bounce, but of course, we want the game to be adjudicated well and for the best umpires to be on the field.
A solution which could appease both parties, would be to continue the centre bounce only at the beginning of each quarter, rather than after every goal as is currently in place. The umpires would then simply throw the ball up to restart play following a goal.
This would ensure umpires are not putting their bodies under as much physical stress, while also ensuring the excitement and tradition of the centre bounce remains, albeit only at the start of a quarter, which would mean umpires only need to bounce the ball four times per game.
Bannister argued that many brilliant decision makers are being left out of games due to their inability to bounce the ball well consistently. This issue would also be solved under this proposal.
There are currently three field umpires who adjudicate every game. If the centre bounce is reduced to only four times a game, then there would only need to be one of the three umpires who has the designated job of bouncing the ball.
This would ensure those umpires who are currently not being selected for duty due to their inability to bounce the ball, can still be selected based on their superior decision making.
It is certainly a topic which will be debated heavily and whatever the decision will be from the League, it will not appease everyone. But perhaps we can compromise and try not to change the game we love so much yet again.