Coaches call on AFL to fix game’s biggest problem

A 40-minute quarter and another 136 minute match last weekend were enough for a trio of coaches to declare the AFL had to shorten games or risk ruining the spectacle and injuring players.

New zoning rules in the VFL stretched one quarter between Carlton and Brisbane to close to 40-minutes, while the AFL game between the two teams extended to average 34 minute quarters.

Lions coach Chris Fagan said it was “way to long” while both St Kilda mentor Brett Ratten and his Port Adelaide comrade Ken Hinkley were adamant it was time to shorten the quarters.

“Everyone is starting to talk about it: the length of the game, the reductions in everything, collision injuries that are happening because you‘re out there for longer,” Hinkley said on the weekend.

“Maybe there is no solution but … we went back to the longer game this year.

“And I’m not sure, is that right or wrong? I will leave that to the decision-makers.”

After losing to Port on Sunday night, Ratten said he was worried about the injury impact on players and the spectacle of the code.

“With shortened lists, with shortened rotations, we have made the game even longer than it was two years ago,” Ratten said.

“In the VFL (on Saturday), the Carlton-Brisbane game went for 40 minutes in one quarter – that was nearly half the game last year.

“But that is up to the AFL. We need to make sure we get the best players out to play week-in, week-out.

“That is what it’s about, isn’t it? To make the product, to watch the stars of the game play.

“The game is the hardest game in the world, we want it to continue that way, but there‘s a tipping point on how many of the good players are missing out.”

Ratten has joined the chorus of coaches asking for change.Source:Getty Images

Ratten said player management to navigate the season could mean using everyone on his list and then hurt the quality of games.

“It could change how we look at the game going forward,” he said.

“That will be for clubs to decide, but for the AFL to work out with some of the high performance areas and the doctors and get some feedback from the clubs.

“We are six rounds in, so let’s have a look at it by rounds 11 and 12.”

Last season, amid a scheduling squeeze because of the coronavirus, games were reduced to quarters of 16 minutes plus time-on.

Hinkley has advocated for quarters of 18 minutes plus time-on, a number Fagan agreed with his after team’s 136-minute marathon against Carlton.

“It is way too long – it wears the players out,” Fagan said post-match.

“I don‘t know the stats but the injury lists at clubs at the moment look big and long and we’re only into round six.”

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