If the interchange cap fits, then scoring is more likely

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 12: Brent Staker of the Lions reacts after missing a goal during the round 15 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Sydney Swans at The Gabba on July 12, 2015 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 12: Brent Staker of the Lions reacts after missing a goal during the round 15 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Sydney Swans at The Gabba on July 12, 2015 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images) Chris Hyde

WHEN Phil Walsh's life was taken, not only did Adelaide lose its coach, the game lost one of its forward-thinkers.

The 55-year-old hadn't even made his first appearance in charge of the Crows when he broke ranks from the coaching fraternity to call for a further - and dramatic - reduction of the interchange cap.

After bench rotations had been spiralling out of control - to upwards of 160 a match - 120 was set as the maximum number of times clubs were permitted to bring players off and on during games in 2014 and 2015.

But, after his counterparts had lobbied against a further decrease last year, Walsh said in February: "80 would have been the way to go".

The idea, of course, was geared towards forcing teams to conserve their players' energies out on the field, thus reducing the number around the ball, particularly at stoppages, while at the same time opening the game up and increasing the chances to score.

"I honestly don't think people like looking at a game when more than half of the ground is empty. If they reduced it to 80 we'd keep more people at home - keep a few up forward," Walsh said.

Fortunately, it appears he will get his wish with the AFL set to install 80 as the magical number, while at the same time ditching the dreaded sub.

As it stands in 2015, stoppages are up, and scoring is down, so this will be the first bid to reverse those trends.

According to Champion Data, there has been an average 74 stoppages (throw-ins or ball-ups) in 2015, which is up from 67 in 2014 and 48 in 2005. In fact, the average this season alone has risen from 66 in round one to 84 in round 15.

Scoring, meanwhile, has dipped to a 47-year low of 85.6 points per game. Even at the height of flooding in 2005, that figure was 95.5.

This season we've seen just 18 scores posted above 125 (7.2% of games that year). A decade ago there were 51 (13.8%).

Just three games have seen both combatants top 100 points. In 2005, we had 25.

Only two teams, Hawthorn (110.0) and West Coast (108.7), are averaging more than 100 points this season, which is a benchmark for premiership outfits, while flag contenders Sydney (from 97 down to 88) and Fremantle (91 to 84) have suffered alarming drops in scoring rate.

Respected commentator Gerard Healy declared this week that evolution was taking "way too long" and with "every player in a quarter of the ground, the game is strangling itself".

Hopefully lowering the interchange cap will loosen the noose, because we don't want netball-style zones, although they have been a success at underage representative level.

Healy called it the "nuclear option - the ultimate weapon", saying: "You don't want to go near it, but we may have to consider it".

HALF EMPTY

Half-time scores in round 15

  • Richmond 4.5 (29)
  • Carlton 2.7 (19)
  • Melbourne 3.9 (27)
  • Essendon 3.4 (22)
  • Bulldogs 3.3 (21)
  • Geelong 4.8 (32)
  • St Kilda 2.7 (19)
  • Fremantle 1.4 (10)
  • Brisbane 3.3 (21)
  • Sydney 5.3 (33)


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