The near-abolishment of the runner in the AFL this season has thrown up some interesting results.
Players have had to think for themselves, coaches have been seen on the bench more often than in the days where they also captained the side and there has been no interference — perceived or otherwise — in play from the men in bright pink delivering messages.
But as with any new rule, teams and their chief tacticians will always find a way around it.
Musings HQ has been intrigued by the use of almost comical signs from clubs to inform players out on the field of what they should be doing, how much time is left in the term and any number of other in-house messages they are attempting to get across.
Officials stand there brandishing these large cardboard cut-outs until the player in question bothers to glance over at the bench or they simply give up on the venture completely.
It reminded this columnist of last year’s Goulburn Valley League grand final — the under-18 football contest to be exact — where I was waving my microphone wildly on the boundary in an attempt to get Foxy’s and JR’s attention in the commentary box.
It is safe to say by the time they realised I was in need of a cross, my point had become well and truly irrelevant.
But what if boundary line and bench signs became the norm at the country football level?
The runners have not yet become extinct in the Goulburn Valley and its surrounds, but could quickly go the way of the 100-goal AFL season and disappear.
Musings HQ is jumping ahead of the game and helping local teams prepare their signs for future use — and you can thank us later.
Little Bo Peep
Just like her lost sheep, the Little Bo Peep sign tells a player to get the hell off the ground before they give away another 50m penalty.
The use of The Hook — as it is colloquially known — is not to be confused with the next sign.
The Red Tomato
Designed for the colour of the coach’s face when yet another turnover results in an opposition goal, this sign does not necessarily mean a player is about to be dragged — but it does signal they should avoid being the first bloke to the huddle at quarter-time.
Better to let someone else cop a pasting while you sniff out the location of a few orange slices.
Rather than something obvious like ‘‘run down the clock’’ painted on a sign, The Band-aid is brought out and directed at the Trent Copeland of the team — in other words the player most likely to receive a Logie nomination — and encourages them to go down like Anthony Rocca pinging his Achilles in order to cop a nice comfortable ride on the stretcher into the changerooms.
The player in question will always make a miraculous recovery in time to belt out the team song.
Here’s one for all the ressies battlers out there. After retiring for the 12th time over summer your forward pocket is back on the ground for round one and has remarkably lost another yard of pace — something the rest of the team thought nigh-on impossible.
When half-time approaches and old mate has had his fill, the coach will throw this sign up to let him know it is time to work his way to the bench.
Your side’s personal John Farnham is then odds on to not make it out of the rooms after the main break, opting rather for an early shower — and even earlier beer — and parking himself within earshot of everyone in the grandstand to better regale them all with stories of yesteryear.
Another one for the twos boys. A wily assistant coach has spotted the end of the latest netball game, and as the girls are filing over from the courts whacks this sign up to let the side know any tall tales told over a cold brew tonight at the club’s social function will have to leave the fiction in the earlier part of the contest. For example, your half-back flanker will know that the six goals he has had kicked on him already have now been wiped clean from the record and your winger can safely double the touches he has from this point forward in the match when trying to impress the ladies — even though he has not gotten near it to halfway through the third term.
The Question Mark
When the opposition scores from six consecutive centre clearances and your midfield is still clinging to its ‘‘zone’’, a coach can only ask existential questions like ‘‘what have I taught these blokes?’’ and ‘‘any danger of putting an arm across?’’. Can also work when all six defenders point at a loose opposition player running past them into the forward arc, and are still pointing when he takes an uncontested grab and waltzes into an open goal.
And finally ...
It is all well and good to have a stack of signs on the bench to communicate with your players, but what about the other way around? Any full forward worth his weight in reserves goals will keep a Meat Pie, Hotdog, Dim Sim and Can of Coke sign handy behind the goals at each end of the ground to put in his canteen order before the after-match rush descends upon the kitchen.