AFL Debate Club: It's time to say goodbye to 'the poster'

Welcome to ESPN's AFL Debate Club, the column in which our writers and contributors will take one prompt from the week and put their opinion on the record. The kicker? No opinion is immune from criticism!

This week, Rohan Connolly and Jake Michaels debate whether or not it's time for in-off-the-post to count as a goal in the AFL.

Should a kick that goes in off the post be considered a goal?

Jake Michaels: At the risk of this sounding like the overreaction of the year, I'm fully in favour of the proposal.

Crows fans, I feel for you. How Ben Keays' snap was called a behind and not even sent to the ARC for a score review is totally baffling and will go down in AFL history as an all-time officiating howler. Was Adelaide robbed of a win and a place in September? Quite possibly.

But my lobbying for a rule change isn't just off the back of this event in isolation. I've long wondered why Aussie Rules is the only sport in the world to treat its posts differently to every other. And by that I mean why should it matter if a ball hits the post and continues through for a goal? Soccer, rugby, NFL, hockey, baseball, and lacrosse, to name a few, all treat their posts this way.

And if the AFL remains steadfast in its lazy approach to improving the technology which is supposed to be aiding score reviews, then perhaps it's time to simplify things for those making the adjudications. Here's what I'm proposing:

  • If the ball hits a goal post and goes through the goal, it's a goal.

  • If the ball hits a goal post and goes through the behinds, it's a behind.

  • If the ball hits a behind post and goes through the behinds, it's a behind.

  • If the ball hits a behind post and goes out of bounds, it's either out on the full and a free kick or a boundary throw in.

  • If the ball hits any post and comes back into play, it's play on.

It may sound more complex, but this is a total simplification of scoring. Not only that but just imagine the drama and chaos a ball hitting the post and rebounding back into the field of play would provide.

Many will argue the Keays-type occurrence is extremely rare and a rule shouldn't necessarily be changed because of it. I totally disagree. We only remember the controversial scores/non-scores late in games, what about the hundreds which occur in first halves or blowouts which immediately get forgotten? And even if these errors were rare, why should we put up with them?

Rohan Connolly: Please. As monumental a blunder as the goal umpire made on Saturday night in Adelaide, can we retain just a little perspective here.

If anything, the stuff up is further proof that you can never eliminate human error. What you can do, though, is accept, in a case like this particularly, that mistakes of this nature are a minute percentage of all decisions made, of which umpires generally speaking make a lot less than players.

You can also recognise that changing one of the fundamental planks of our entire game, how scores are possible, on the basis of one rare mistake, would be a massive overreaction, threatening to ditch another unique feature of Australian football for more homogenization.

We actually have tried the "in-off" rule, during the 2005 pre-season competition. The fact that it had only that one trial gives you an idea how well it went, ie. not very.

There's also some obvious sticking points with such a rule. For example, what if scores are level and a player has a shot after the siren. If he kicks it metres wide of the goalposts but inside the point post, his team wins. If he aims for goal, hits the post and the ball rebounds, they lose.

So theoretically, it's a safer bet to miss the goals by a wide margin than to attempt to kick one. That's taking the criticism often cited by foreigners about being rewarded (by a behind) for a miss to an ever higher level.

And even if the "in-off" provision was made, wouldn't you still have potential error when a goal umpire misjudges which side of the post the ball has travelled after making contact with it?

So we would have made an enormous change to playing conditions, but in doing so still not eliminated completely the chance of mistakes being made? Right. So what's the point (pun perhaps intended)?