Brad Ebert of Port Adelaide tackles Shaun Higgins of the Kangaroos during the JLT Community Series match at Alberton Oval on Saturday. Picture: Mark Brake/Getty Images
Brad Ebert of Port Adelaide tackles Shaun Higgins of the Kangaroos during the JLT Community Series match at Alberton Oval on Saturday. Picture: Mark Brake/Getty Images

AFL rule change becomes a laughing-stock

PORT Adelaide romped to a big win in their final hit-out before the home-and-away season, but the limelight was taken off the victory by farcical scenes relating to one of the AFL's newest rule changes.

The AFL was desperate to do away with congestion but in the hope of opening the game up, they've tripped over their own feet.

Changes made to the 50m penalty rule have come under fire throughout the JLT Community Series, but on Saturday they were well and truly torn to shreds as Port made its way to a 19.9 (123) to 16.6 (102) victory over North Melbourne.

The rule change means if a 50m penalty is given away, the player with the ball can simply sprint the distance without being impeded.

Umpires have been told to be stricter on players trying to block and delay the enforcement of the penalty, but on Saturday it became a laughing-stock in the commentary box.

North's Shaun Higgins gave away a free kick to Port Adelaide's Darcy Byrne-Jones after arriving late to contest a mark. The umpire awarded the first 50m penalty.

But as Byrne-Jones got up and began running towards goal, Higgins was pinged for impeding the line, which resulted in a second penalty. That put Byrne-Jones effectively on the goal line.

"What's Higgins supposed to do?" Fox Footy analyst David King asked on commentary.

"He's running next to him. The umpire says don't impede him - he's not impeding him there, he's next to him, he's three metres away.

"How can that be 50m? That's a disgrace.

"You're already in it (the zone around the player) to start with because you've just given the 50 away."

"He's not allowed to impede. Not sure what the definition of that is," Gerard Healy replied to King.

"This rule has got the capacity to create a few issues in the first couple of weeks (of the home and away season).

"One of the problems at the other end of the ground is that no one knows where the mark is."

The official AFL rule book states the umpires will be: 

- Stricter on the infringing player, allowing the player with the ball to advance the mark by 50m without the infringing player delaying the game.

- In addition, the player with the football will be able to play on during the advancement of the 50m penalty.

No matter what the rule book states, fans, commentators and even players were left dumbfounded over the absurd change to a rule that didn't have an impact on the games to begin with.

News Corp Australia


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