And when I say “unsociable” I’m referring to the heavy stoppage, over defensive, highly crowded, low scoring football that is creeping into the AFL more and more in the modern day.
While the techniques that have come to define this brand of football can be effective, they bring out the worst in the game, forcing stop and start contests.
AFL is a sport for the spectators.
The passion that fans display on game day may not show balance or logic but what it does show is that intense commitment and sense of belonging that makes our game so great.
Fans go through the lows and rejoice in the highs with the clubs and when they go the footy or turn on their TV they want to see one thing: Victory.
But second to victory, fans want to see a good game, something that shows a fierce competition and can showcase the elite skills of the athletes on the field.
When it comes to unsociable football the fans are often left wanting.
The result is often still close, as one team intent on suffocating the other can’t then score themselves. Their own opportunities to affect the scoreboard are depleted because of their overly defensive efforts.
Where is the high scoring, fast moving brand of football? The type of football that gets people excited.
The Fremantle Carlton contest in round 5 of this year was a prime example of this.
The Blues secured an 8 point win but the close game didn’t excite, with Fremantle’s tight tactics often reducing the game to slow, heavily congested and ugly performance by both sides which ebbed and flowed with no genuine climax.
It was in that same game that Gary Ablett Junior sparked controversy on Twitter, labelling Ryan Crowley a joke for his heavy tagging tactics on Chris Judd.
A defensive, shut down game like this limits the ability of stars to display their skills.
I would rather see Judd at his best or Pavlich kick a bag than see a pack of players converge on the ball and kill the contest.
Obviously, when this type of footy is executed well, it does the job.
Teams have regularly played heavy stoppage football against Carlton this year, exploiting a fundamental flaw in their game plan, and Sydney and St. Kilda have both played a very defensive, congested game at times.
But can this style of game really match it against the elite every week?
Ross Lyon is the pioneer of unsociable football in the modern age and has employed a congested and defensive style of football effectively with St Kilda.
But the now Fremantle coach is regularly criticized for his game, most recently after losing the Western derby to a superior West Coast.
The defensive tactics of Lyon failed to reign in the Eagles, and contributed to the Dockers goalless third quarter.
Admittedly this is Lyon’s first year at Fremantle and the playing group are still adapting to his game style.
Even at the helm of the Saints, Lyon led the team through periods of dominance but failed to secure a grand final victory after making three appearances in two years.
On the weekend, Matthew Pavlich kicked six goals for the Dockers in a strong win against Richmond.
In the same week Essendon almost staged the comeback of the year with a nine goal last quarter in a free flowing match against the Swans.
The week before, Buddy Franklin booted 13 in a match against the Kangaroos.
Surely moments like these are why we watch the game.
- Ross Lyon hits back at AFL greats (news.smh.com.au)