ROBBO: Stop whinging about the man on the mark
Hawthorn through its superior years called it "working the mark".
Former Hawk Jordan Lewis said it was critical to the team's success.
In essence, it was to dance and move, watch the eyes of the player with the ball, cut off the corridor kick and force the ball down the line.
It helped kill attacking ball movement and, in the years since, helped kill the game as a spectacle.
"It was huge for us,'' Lewis said on Monday.
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"We had a high focus on manning the mark and not only us, Geelong used to man the mark very well.
"They had a guy on the mark and another player cutting off the 45-degree kick, especially in our defensive 50. It would force you to go short or long down the line."
The new standing-the-mark rule, which only allows the player to move one metre laterally, will be bombastic in the first weeks as players adjust their instinct to move off the mark as the player with ball moves off the line.
Only when the umpire calls "play on" can the man on the mark leave his allotted area.
There will be outcry from fans and others when the penalty is enforced, particularly in the early matches.
The more open-minded will understand its importance.
Former coach Ross Lyon told the Herald Sun in November the issue with the modern game was there was "no time and no space''.
The new rule opens the latter and in a sport being devoured by defensive strategy, the rule should viewed as a necessity and not a blight.
After all, no-one barracks for the man on the mark.
Lewis, who is working with Melbourne's midfield this season and as a commentator with Fox Footy, watched about 140 games last season.
He believes the ground will open up under the new rule and allow more attacking football.
"It's probably the only rule brought in that I think will have immediate and positive impact," Lewis said.
"It gives more power to the guy with the ball to make better decisions and potentially more aggressive decisions.
"What you used to struggle with, and even more so now, when you marked the ball, a player would understand the position of the ground and where you wanted to move the ball and cut that angle.
"The new rule gives more options than you've ever had as the kicker."
Lewis hinted it was a work in progress for clubs at training and in scratch matches.
"It will probably be bombastic at the start,'' he said.
"It will take a couple of weeks for the players to consciously think about it coming into the game.
"On the flip side, it will increase the instinct to move the ball through the corridor.
"I don't know how people will say it's an unfair rule when both sides will have the opportunity to use it as advantage."
Northern Bullants VFL coach Josh Fraser said at the weekend teams would exploit the rule by not deploying a player to stand the mark and instead push that player further behind the ball.
Lewis believes that could be dangerous.
"Straight away that gives the advantage to the kicker, they can run with the ball,'' he said.
"Even if they play on with the man on the mark, it gives them the opportunity to run 8, 10 15m. I like it.
"I'll tell you a player who wishes he was still playing and that's Sam Mitchell.
"He'd mark the ball and not move and he would have a field day using both sides of the body - and whatever angle he could use, he would use.''
Originally published as ROBBO: Stop whinging about the man on the mark