Kevin Sheedy has urged the game’s decision-makers to consider restricting players to certain parts of the ground, as the style and standard of the game emerges as a serious issue.
AFL operations chief Mark Evans has said feedback from clubs will be sought this year on forcing players into zones in a bid to counter what the league believes is an increase in congestion.
This comes as Melbourne great Garry Lyon described the standard of football this season as "shocking" and expressed concerns it could even impact on the value of the next television rights deal. He said Sunday's clash between the Demons and Gold Coast Suns had been "horrendous".
Lyon bemoaned the lack of flair and creativity in football in general, with teams too often going into lock-down due, in part, to the proliferation of assistant coaches.
"I am not an alarmist at all - I have got concerns for the game. It is not anywhere near enjoyable as it has been. More and more than ever at any time, I am just walking away, I am just flipping the telly over," he said.
Lyon's comments were endorsed by North Melbourne president James Brayshaw, his Triple M colleague, who said it would "kill him" if the game deteriorated into a defensive grind.
Evans has floated two ideas: having two players from each team forced into each of the 50-metre arcs at stoppages; or having four players positioned behind the back of the square from kick-ins to help free up play.
AFL great Leigh Matthews, who is on the laws of the game committee, spoke about the radical idea early this year.
Sheedy, the legendary former Essendon and Greater Western Sydney coach, said he had long called for players to be in zones at stoppages.
‘‘I totally agree,’’ he said on Monday.
‘‘It will take the rugby out of the AFL. That’s all. It’s quite simple. Do you want to be AFL or do you want to be NRL? Think about it."
‘‘You don’t want less than three (inside 50) and you could have five at the most maybe - let the other one (fifth) be at the coach’s discretion. But you can’t have a loose player in the back half at a stoppage.’’
Richmond great and prominent commentator Kevin Bartlett, who recently stepped down from the laws of the game committee, has expressed major concerns about how the modern game looks, with a mass of players regularly following the ball around and few, if any, forwards inside 50 when players break from half-back.
Bartlett has even said he has no faith in the AFL Commission to end the rolling mauls, chip kicks and high-possession style of play.
‘‘I think Bartlett is pretty much on the ball with that,’’ Sheedy said.
‘‘The game is always adjusting. Often we are adjusting against the stupid things the coaches bring in.’’
One issue against forcing players into restricted zones is the time it would require for players to dash, for instance, from a stoppage at centre wing into each 50-metre zone. This could frustrate spectators and viewers, and add to the duration of a match at a time when the league has been trying to speed the game up.
Sheedy, now on the Giants’ board of directors, said that would not be an issue.
‘‘That’s OK. I don’t mind slowing the game down. The game is only quick when you have got the ball,’’ he said.
The restricted zone idea has been loosely trialled in the TAC Cup but there are no set guidelines or penalties if not followed. It’s been left to coaches to embrace the idea of having two players inside 50 and another two forward of centre.
Leigh Brown, the former Collingwood premiership player and now coach of TAC Cup side Gippsland Power, said the trial had increased space at stoppages.
‘‘The rules are to have two players inside forward 50 and another two forward of centre. It’s not a hard and fast rule - they’re still allowed to chase out and things like that but the intent to push back and create that space ... I’m seeing more run and carry than I’m used to,’’ Brown told SEN on Monday.
‘‘There is still lots of numbers around the stoppage, I guess, when you have your three midfielders and your couple of wingers floating around there but you don’t see the high half-forwards pushing up as much at our level.’’
The laws committee consists of Evans (chairman), Matthews, John Worsfold, Michael Christian, Wayne Campbell, Hayden Kennedy, Joel Bowden, Brett Burton, Rodney Eade, Tom Harley, Michael Sexton and Beau Waters.