The interchange cap was originally sold as a player safety measure

The interchange cap was originally sold as a player safety measure


For years my dad said the reason Aussie Rules was popular in southern states and rugby league in northern ones was due to the hardness of grounds. Soft down south meant a game that was played in all directions and with a lot of aerial contests was good. Further north hard grounds meant that the risk of injury was too high so the rugbies won the popularity stakes. Since the stadia have had installed highly effective drainage systems, the curse of the bog heap is gone but the grounds have hardened up. It has long been suggested that the grounds in Perth, the driest southern state capital, contribute to injury rates of WCE and Freemantle players . Harder grounds leads to faster running, and less fatigue which speeds the game up. Couple this with greater input from sports science and higher degrees of professionalism, and you have bigger faster stronger players keeping the pace up longer and when they hot the deck, that deck is much harder. Add to this game plans predicated on fast ball movement and of course injury rates are up and concussions are on the rise. Block the drains, water the grounds and plant them out with kikuyu and the players legs will feel like lead in no time and they won't have the energy after quarter time to hurt themselves. If that is not enough, scrape the centre and goal squares clean of grass and soil and replace with a good deep layer of Merri Creek clay and we will have sticky bog heaps again in no time. Full forwards will stay in the square, the followers will take 5 minutes after the bounce to make it out of the centre and wingmen will be the only blokes who will have a chance to come off clean at the end of the game. That will slow down the players enough that congestion is no longer a problem , they will be too spread out and tired to make it from contest to contest all the time, and heavy hits will again become a rarity and when they do happen, the player whose head hits the ground will be at greater risk of drowning in the mud than getting his brain shaken up.


This is fine and all, but, err, Perth gets more rainfall annually than Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart.


There has been plenty said about the hardness of Perth grounds both Optus and the WACA. I don't know whether it is the soil that is used, the construction of the ground or exceptional drainage but ground hardness has been attributed as a factor in soft tissue injuries in the west and particularly for Fremantle because of where they train. My point was that the AFL has done everything it can for 25 years to.speed up the game in terms of rule changes and playing surfaces. The AFLPA also demanded improvements to playing surfaces when some players went down with knee injuries on new laid shifting turf especially when new turf was laid at various grounds. There was also a really big push to limit the fatigue of players to avoid injury that continues even now with the debate about shorter quarters. It is ironic that they are now limiting interchanges in an attempt to fatigue players to reduce the incidence of injury due to heavy collisions while looking at game length to reduce soft tissue injuries caused by fatigue. There are competing priorities and no one seems to see the connections or if they do, to talk about them publicly. It is typical with the reactionary manner by which the AFL makes changes to the game. They identify a problem, propose a single solution which usually raises serious concerns, ignore those concerns and then wonder why it went wrong. Then, rather than acknowledge a mistake, make 5 other changes that each have unintended consequences to address the problems caused by the original change.


I wasn't sure whether to trust my memory on this, so I looked it up. People seem to forget this argument when discussing the cap today; the consensus appears to be that it's purely about opening the game up and increasing free-flowing play and scoring, especially late in games. If anything, people seem to think that the cap is bad for the players, leading to more soft-tissue injuries. So I was wondering, which side do the stats (and expert opinion) support? And has the AFL changed its official position at all, regarding the degree to which this is about player welfare/the look of the game?


> So I was wondering, which side do the stats (and expert opinion) support? Hamstring and other soft tissue injuries had a large spike every time they have reduced the interchanges.


> the consensus appears to be that it's purely about opening the game up and increasing free-flowing play and scoring, especially late in games That's what the AFL said. They wanted everyone tired so the Dusty's of the game could tear open a game in the last quarter and they could market their match winning stars. This has never been about player safety. Coaches will still make their players run as hard for the entire game, they just get less breaks. The AFL sold it as "well there's less breaks so they won't have to run as hard now they don't get as much of a rest". Pathetic league.


Counter-point: [Mike Fitzpatrick had been pushing to curb congestion in the game with an interchange cap since his appointment in 2007.](https://www.theage.com.au/sport/afl/afl-2016-why-it-took-so-long-for-the-afl-to-cap-interchange-rotations-20160415-go79oi.html)


I never understood why people were so mad about the amount of interchanges per game in the first place.


I don’t get it either. Some people blame it for things like lower scoring but scoring was going down before interchanges ramped up in the late 2000s.