Sixteen a side

Sixteen a side, an interesting concept isn’t it?

The old VFA played sixteen a side for years, with great success I might add and there are probably many leagues throughout our land which still play with the same number.

Ever wonder why soccer is so popular?  Besides the fact that Mum thinks little Johnny won’t get hurt, here is the answer:

There are eleven players on each side;  not many to rustle up for a kick around is it?  Team A kicks (or faces) one way and Team B kicks the other.  The object is by not touching the ball with the hand, kick it through those goal posts at the other end.  Simple isn’t it?

If you are a junior coach in soccer how easy is it?  “You face this way and if the ball comes near you, kick it that way.”  And if you win the comp everyone thinks you are a genius. I have often thought “what a simple principle”  But what do we do?  We invent the best game in the world and muddle it up by introducing all these rules.  In 1859 there were 12.  How many are there now?

Plus, now the central umpire – there are three in the big time where this booming voice comes from secreted part of the ground to Intermittently adjudicate on a score – has the discretion to allow a free kick to go unheeded in order to ‘keep the game flowing.’   Great idea, but what pressure does that put on our umpires while Waldo Bloggs, who might be watching the game for the first time must ask himself, “what is going on?”

Anyhow16aside, enough of that.  The game was started with 20 players on each side with NO reserves or interchange.  All that changed in the 1890s when the new competition, the Victorian Football League, changed it to 18 aside.  Still no reserves.

Did you know that in 1935 the Eastern Suburbs Club in Sydney, a club long lost in the mix-up of clubs, names and teams put forward a proposal to cut the number of players from 18 to 16 (great idea).  At the same time they proposed a crossbar be put between the goalposts and a goal had to be kicked through and under the crossbar (I dont know about that one).  Starting to complicate things, isn’t it?  Well the concept went off to the long gone Australian National Football Council which failed to give it any support.

Then along came a ‘new broom’  in 1960-61  when Joe Boulus, from Broken Hill was appointed fulltime secretary of the NSW AFL (it was all honorary before then).  He followed Ken Ferguson who gave the league 35 years of his time as league secretary.  A fair effort and Ken was a lovely bloke.

They introduced sixteen aside in the Sydney competition.  However the traditionalists of the game howled it down, although they agreed they were playing on smaller grounds than most of Australia “but it wasn’t real football if there weren’t eighteen on the paddock.”  One reason Sydney football has failed is because some couldn’t see 16aside 3the forest for the trees.

So six months later and mid-season it was back to 18 aside.

Then in 1998 when the AFL usurped control over the game in NSW with an appointed administration as opposed to an one elected, John Livvy, the new CEO changed Sydney team numbers to 16. GOOD!  But it too didn’t last long so here we are, the majority of the teams in a what can broadly be described as a successful but sometimes struggling code in NSW, where if you can’t get the required numbers, you forfeit and yet we are still yet to get to where they would be happy with numbers playing the game.

Or is it that the majority of our young now play their sport on a tablet?

Do you know that in some soccer comps play 5 aside?

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