SPORT

Move To Abolish AFL Bounce Is Everything That's Wrong With Modern Life

What next? No sauce blobs on pies?

22/02/2017 10:51 AM AEDT | Updated 22/02/2017 12:58 PM AEDT
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We're backing the umpires to bounce back to health.

Apparently it's an OH & S thing. Umpires are getting sore backs from bouncing with great vengeance and fury, and that's the main reason why there's a strong chance the AFL bounce will be bounced out of the game, in favour of the toss-up.

While the umpires' welfare is obviously paramount, this is kind of sad. As in very sad. As in, let's rip out the very heart of Australia's favourite game sad.

Like carbohydrates and truthiness, the bounce has been under increasing attack in recent years. In 2013 bounces were abolished at stoppages in general play. Only the centre bounce persisted. Now the AFL Umpires Association says the centre bounce should go too, for the following three reasons:

  • Fairness to competing ruckmen;
  • The difficulty of finding enough umpires to officiate at the elite level, and;
  • Injuries

If the act of bouncing the footy really is causing untold strain on the backs of the umps, that should be dealt with somehow. But here's the thing. Remove the bounce and you remove the very essence of Australian Rules football.

The bounce has always been footy's emblematic moment. It's the moment that says this game is still more about reaction and instinct than whiteboards and plans. It's the moment that symbolises the beautiful, chaotic nature of a game only Australians could have invented -- a game in which ingenuity and intuitiveness is more important than planning and preparation.

Anyone can react to a situation they know is coming. In football, you judge a person's worth by how they respond to chaos. The bounce of the ball is the first such moment in the game. It's the ultimate tone-setter.

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This will still happen with toss-ups, but it just won't be the same.

Few things in modern life are like that anymore. Everything is planned, mapped out, and relentlessly monitored with statistics and metrics. Sport is supposed to be an escape from the real world. Instead, it has increasingly become its mirror.

Sports writer Rohan Connolly, who knows a lot more about Australian football than most people, made the following point in a column in The Age this week.

Seriously, does anyone remember any great centre bounces? Do we even pay them a second thought other than that annual slow-motion footage of the start of each year's grand final? Does the game lose anything all without them?

He is -- how to put this delicately -- wrong, and here's why. It's not about the bounce, just like it wasn't about the bike for Lance Armstrong (it was actually all about the drugs and deception, but that's not the point here).

It's about the chaos. It's about the fact that the really good ruckmen don't need the ball served up predictably in the same cubic metre of air at the start of every quarter and after every goal.

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Oh, what a bouncy feeling we'll all lose if they change the rules.

AFL umpires coach Hayden Kennedy does not see it that way.

"I think there's really no benefit. I think throwing it up and creating an even contest on all occasions is probably the best way for us to go," he told the radio program Sportsday.

Why? Why is predictable evenness somehow more desirable than chaotic evenness?

A final thought. Ask yourself who your favourite player is, and what you like about him or her. This reporter loved Adam Goodes long before his stoic and dignified response to the booing thing. What made Goodesy great? He moved like mercury and did little things there were no words for, and certainly no stats for. You just never quite knew where Goodesy would bob up and what he'd do next.

Players like him make the game great. The randomness of the bounces symbolises all that. What does the game lose without the bounce? A small piece of its soul, that's what. That moment where you have absolutely no idea what happens next.

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