18m goal square ‘absurd’: Grant Thomas
EX-ST KILDA coach Grant Thomas says the AFL's proposed 18m goal square is an "absurdity" that will do nothing to ease congestion.
The league's powerful Competition Committee meets in Melbourne today to press ahead with plans to make significant "game adjustments" for next season.
An extended 18m goal square (up from 9m) and six-six-six starting positions after goals are among serious options being trialled at lower levels under the eye of AFL football operations boss Steve Hocking.
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Thomas yesterday likened the lengthened goal square to "egos on golf committees making unnecessary changes so that they can tell their siblings that they put that bunker there".
He said the move would forever change the aesthetics of Australian Rules and be rapidly exploited by coaches.
"It's just an absurdity," Thomas told the Herald Sun.
"The first thing I would like to understand is why? Everyone is going to play on and why wouldn't you when the man on the mark is 23m away from you?
"And the coaches are going to say, 'Thanks Steve Hocking, thanks Gill (McLachlan), you've just given us another reason to get back into the war room and work out ways to take advantage of that extra 14m you've given us'.
"If they think having 23m between the bloke on the mark and the bloke kicking the ball in is going to do anything for congestion, they don't understand the game.
"And if they've spoken to AFL coaches about whether this will work or not and they say it will, they are bullsh*ting them and piddling down their back and telling them it's raining, because they've already got another solution for it - they are one step ahead of them."
Almost 90 per cent of the game's 820 players said they opposed an increased goal square in a recent Herald Sun-AFL Players' Association survey.
Thomas said the proposed rule changes were knee-jerk reactions to negative game styles that typically dominate the first half of seasons.
"I'm just trying to understand the rationale in wanting to change a game that has its problems early in every year because of coaching paranoia," Thomas said.
"Fearful coaches who are too afraid to lose to win, playing a terribly brand of defensive football, and then everything opens up and one half of the competition are striving to play finals and the other to get draft choices.
"It keeps getting exponentially better as we get closer to finals … culminating in the prelims and Grand Final, which are just amazing games of football because they play the right style.
"We've heard nothing but positives about the brand of football in the last couple of months.
"Is Steve Hocking feeling so insecure and so in need of attention that he has to make these incredibly dramatic changes that bear no resemblance to the game we know?
"Is this for Steve, is this for Gill or is it for the competition? Why are they doing this?"
Thomas said the root cause of congestion was being overlooked.
"The reason we have congestion isn't from kicking behinds and having kickouts - the reason we have congestion is strategy, tactics and most importantly a poor interpretation of one rule - holding the ball," he said.
"The causes of congestion are coaches who apply an unbelievably negative brand of football, but enough good coaches realise that if you are going to win a premiership, you've got to have the right balance between offence and defence."