The AFL’s new controversial sliding rule

There may have only been two games to start the 2013 AFL season, but already a new rule has caused headaches amongst the AFL community.

The new controversial rule is surrounding sliding and diving into packs. The AFL is calling it “forceful contact below the knees”. If any player “makes [forceful] contact with any part of their body with an opposition player below the knees, the player sliding in will be penalised”.

Adelaide coach Brenton Sanderson has labelled his team as the “guinea pigs” for the new rule and said “Essendon and the Crows will be the benchmark now for what that rule is”.

It appeared that Essendon players adapted considerably better to the new rule compared to their opponents on Friday night as Adelaide gave away numerous free kicks for making contact below the knees, with one instance resulting into an Essendon goal in the third quarter.

The rule has been brought in to protect players from severe injuries to the legs, hoping to avoid any incidents similar to the Gary Rohan broken leg back in round 4 last year.

However, it tends to go against one of the basic instincts of attacking the ball by getting your body in first to the contest. Whether it is at grassroots level or the AFL, players are told to get low and get behind the ball. Patrick Dangerfield, renowned for his attack on the ball, was one player who struggled with the rule on Friday night and will have to find a new approach when attacking the ball in the packs.

Another concern with the introduction of the rule is that if players will inevitably be forced to keep their feet and avoid sliding. This could possibly increase the chances of more head clashes as both players would remain at the same height when attacking the ball.

It is sure to remain a talking point at the start of the season, but like most new rules, players will adapt to it and have to change their tactics when attacking the ball.

Jackson Baker is a second year Bachelor of Journalism (Sport) student.

You can follow him on Twitter @JacksonBaker9

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