As coaches and players continue to line up against the controversial interchange cap, a former AFL coach says the new restrictions could help even up the competition and generate more close games.
Former Hawthorn and West Coast coach Ken Judge is one of few commentators to admit he is ”not totally against” the interchange cap, which the AFL says is definitely coming in some form in 2014.
Judge said restricting the interchange could bridge the gap between the league’s best and worst teams and keep scores closer for longer in matches.
”Blowouts” were a major issue last season. Midway through 2012, the average losing margin had spiralled to 42.2 points, making it the most lopsided season in AFL history.
By season’s end, that figure had dipped only minimally to 41.5 points, with 53 of the 207 games – basically a quarter – decided by 60 points or more.
”By having open slather on the interchange, I think that can favour better sides,” said Judge, who coached the Hawks and Eagles over six seasons between 1996 and 2001.
”If you’ve got a better midfield or better running players, you can just keep rotating good players against lesser players in the opposition, over and over, and eventually that wears the lesser sides down,” Judge said.
”On top of the fact that you’ve already got more talent anyhow, you are actually able to – because of the unrestricted interchange – throw fresher players against those lesser sides more often.”
A meeting with the AFL’s rule-makers has reassured Carlton coach Mick Malthouse that he and his colleagues will get their say on next year’s interchange cap.
”I’m sure each club would have an optimum number,” Malthouse said. ”If you took that over 18 clubs and knocked off the bottom one and the top one then you’re going to get somewhere near the number that most clubs think is the right number.”
Malthouse said the committee convinced him it had the game’s interests at heart. He, in turn, had stressed that the coaches also valued the game and its players.
Almost every player and coach interviewed during the NAB Cup has objected to the trial of the 80 rotation interchange cap. Melbourne’s Nathan Jones said it would be ”irresponsible” to keep interchange caps as low as 80 for the home-and-away season, suggesting the players’ workload would ”significantly increase”. However, West Coast coach John Worsfold raised the alternative view. ”Players just have to change their mindsets again – from going absolutely flat-out for six or seven minutes and coming off for a rest, to knowing that maybe they have to pace themselves a bit and stay out there,” he said. ”Just like so many of the champions of the game did for the entirety of their careers. They will adjust and cope.”
Interestingly, the coach of the other West Australian team, Fremantle’s Ross Lyon, has also stayed neutral on the issue.
Now the debate has turned to the magic number of rotations that should be attached to it. There is a growing view among some Victorian clubs that 120 rotations would be fair.
The 2012 AFL injury report, released on Wednesday, looked at the issue of the interchange cap and whether use of rules to purposefully tire out players led to more fatigue-related injuries.
The authors said there was no evidence to say that an interchange cap would result in fewer injuries.
With Samantha Lane
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.