Dual premiership David King has called for an immediate readjustment of the man on the mark rule, suggesting the AFL had allowed the adjudication of the rule to slowly regress “to the point where we’ve lost our way”.
The AFL introduced a stricter man on the mark interpretation for the 2021 season, with players on the mark told to ‘stand’ still – otherwise they’d concede a 50m penalty.
After an adjustment period across the pre-season, the rule was widely lauded as pundits and coaches believed it had allowed players to execute more aggressive and direct kicks, subsequently leading to more goals.
But speaking on Fox Footy’s First Crack on Sunday night, King said umpires were now being too harsh on players with the ball and too lenient to players standing the mark.
“We brought a new rule in … to free the game up, to open up the game up – and it worked. So we‘ve done a great job, well done, big gamble, all teams had to change strategy – all that sort of stuff,” King told First Crack.
“But in the space of 10 weeks, we’ve allowed it to regress slowly and slowly, over the last month in particular, to the point where we’ve lost our way.”
King pointed to an example from the Bulldogs-Demons game on Friday night, which saw Max Gawn promptly called to play on despite appearing to only take three steps back on his line.
He also highlighted another case study from the Swans-Blues game where Adam Saad was called to play on despite not appearing to move off his mark when he feigned a handpass. Consequently, Sydney co-captain Luke Parker tackled Saad and won a free kick for holding the ball.
“The rules have totally lost their way,” King continued.
“They were brilliant and opened up our game and gave us back everything we love about football and it favoured offence. We have to address this, the AFL have to address this immediately. We loved where it was, bring it back.”
But King said players with the ball were also being disadvantaged because defenders often weren’t standing directly where their opponent had initially taken the mark.
He pointed to another example from the Dogs-Dees game where Christian Petracca was seemingly allowed to stand the mark metres away from where Bailey Smith had initially grabbed the ball, consequently forcing the Bulldog to execute a tougher kick into the corridor.