WA’s domestic football competition the WAFL has removed the iconic centre bounce from all forms of domestic competition, replacing it instead with the “ball-up”
An umpire holds the ball up to start the clock, moments before the ball up (Photo: Gera Kazakov)
The West Australian Football Commission – the state’s regulatory and governing body for the competition – has removed the centre bounce from all forms of WA domestic Aussie rules football games for the 2023 season.
The move comes after debate around the bounce was reignited by St Kilda coach Ross Lyon and Geelong coach Chris Scott, who labelled the bounce an “unnecessary burden for umpires”.
Scott Baker, Operations manager at the WAFC says “it’s been something we’ve been thinking about for about 12-18 months now”.
“We’ve found [the bounce is] a real barrier for umpire’s within the pathway," Baker said.
"We’ve got some umpire coaches and umpire staff and a lot of umpires themselves that [say] it really is a barrier for umpires progressing through the pathway.”
By removing the bounce, Baker says it will increase the number of umpires for domestic games.
“So we’ve got about 2,600 registered umpires in WA, but what we need is to get that number to about 3,000 over the next couple of years to ensure that we’ve got enough umpires to be able umpire all our games.”
A ball-up will now be performed instead of a bounce at all levels of domestic football competitions here in WA (Photo: Gera Kazakov)
Dean Margetts is the umpiring operations manager at the WAFC, and a former AFL umpire himself. He believes the decision will only positively affect the game moving forward.
“We’re always looking into lessening barriers for umpires to stay in the game, we also want umpires from non-traditional backgrounds, so this will certainly help that,” Margetts said.
He personally knows the effects a bad bounce can have on an umpire's psyche, and he says removing the bounce will make for better umpires who are more focused on the game.
“I know for a fact that when an umpire has to recall a bounce or does a poor bounce, it plays on their mind, it starts to chew away at their confidence, and we want strong decision-makers to be in the game.
"We want good match-managers in the game, we want umpires that are good on the footy field - we don’t want them lying awake at night, stressing over it, going ‘I hope it rains tomorrow so I don’t have to bounce it’.
"We don’t want that.”
Margetts calls himself a “card-carrying” member of the bounce, but admits the distress it causes umpires shows a need for readjustment within the game.
“We honestly believe that the AFL will follow in time, maybe [in the] next year or two.”
Scott Baker says that umpires can still practice the bounce in hopes of one day making it to league level. But he believes the time they spend practicing skills other than the bounce will make them better decision makers for the domestic game.
“Some umpires are spending a couple of hours practicing the bounce, and they’re umpires that might get to AFL level," Baker said.
"But for what’s required at state league level, if we can get those few hours back, and have those umpires focusing on other things, whether it’s ball fitness work, whether it’s working on their decision making, or match management, we think that all in all it’s a positive decision for the industry going forward.”
The Swanston Gazette went to the opening game of round one and observed that while the crowd did not berate the umpires for the ball-up, they did berate the umpires for other decisions either called or ignored. However, the players of either team also copped equal flak, especially as the game drew closer to finishing.