Footy faux pas: ‘Are they bloody serious?’
ST KILDA legend Nathan Burke pulled off a modern-day miracle last week - and hardly anyone noticed.
In a time in history where it's never been dicier to compare men and women, the tough rover-turned-AFL media figure did just that in a piece for Inside Football magazine titled "How To Coach Girls".
An article that described women as "less likely to take risks", "more likely to form cliques and ostracise outsiders" and "more likely to cry" somehow slipped past those looking for any excuse for feminist outrage.
And you know what? It was great, because if you read the piece in full, Burke - who noted his views were formed from "having three daughters, three sisters and years of coaching girls in a variety of sports" - made some thoughtful and important points.
Only problem is the feminists weren't the only ones who missed Burke's piece. The AFL clearly didn't read a word because they just broke nearly every rule on his list.
AFL football boss Steve Hocking wrote a memo to coaches in the women's league asking them to make immediate changes after a low-scoring start to the season.
A memo to coaches on Wednesday published by Fox Sports News identified congestion around stoppages and defensive flooding as two key issues they should address.
Teams will be required to set up for centre bounces with five defenders, six midfielders and five forwards, preventing them putting extra bodies around the ball as commonly happens in the men's competition.
A protected area will be introduced for other stoppages while forwards will be asked to hold their place rather than being drawn into the congestion.
It understandably went down like a lead balloon with some players, most prominently Brisbane forward Jessica Wuetschner who took to social media to label the modifications "ridiculous".
"This is my view only but are they bloody serious?" Wuetschner posted on Twitter. "We are out here to win, whatever it takes.
"If you ask me, I saw some pretty exciting stuff on the weekend and I think this is ridiculous. How many rule changes do you want? Is it even AFL anymore?"
Carlton skipper Brianna Davey also spoke out, insisting winning games had to remain the priority.
"As players and as teams, we probably don't really care what it looks like as long as we're getting that win," she said.
"We understand from a spectacle point of view, we want people to enjoy watching the game.
"We'll continue to do that but at the same time ... we're here to win games."
The league may have expected that backlash, but it could have been avoided if someone had read any of Burke's first six rules:
1. Girls are more likely to insist on fairness
2. Hate to be played off against peers
3. Are sensitive to changes in your relationship with them
4. Need to hear the whole story
5. Are more likely to internalise criticism
6. Need to learn that mistakes are OK
AFLW boss Nicole Livingstone has encouraged football fans not to compare men's football to women's football but you can guarantee plenty of female players will be questioning whether such an edict would have been sent to the likes of Paul Roos and Ross Lyon in the AFL one round into a season.
Former AFL player Daniel Harford noted the danger in moving the goalposts in a competition that is only in its second year.
"I think the AFL need to be very careful about the message they send to the AFLW competition, the clubs and the players, as to what they want the competition to be," he told Melbourne radio's RSN.
"Do they want it to be a serious, competitive environment? Or do they want it to be a showcase of free-flowing entertainment (or) football? I think that is the philosophical conversation on the back of what has happened over the past 24 hours.
"The danger from the AFL's perspective is that if you start to encourage entertainment as opposed to winning, you haven't got much of a competition, a lot of substance to the competition."
The league obviously has a desire, and obligation, to ensure the competition is commercially viable as it looks to grow the women's game.
But they might want to bring Burke in as a consultant the next time issues like this arise.