Throwing the jack (2016 rules)

One of the biggest changes in the 2016 version of the FIPJP rules is a change to the rules about throwing the jack. throwing_the_jack_madagascar_style2
Previously the rule was that the team that threw the jack (let’s call it team A) was allowed three attempts to throw a valid jack. (A valid jack, in this context, is a jack that comes to rest between 6 and 10 meters from the circle.)  If after three attempts team A had not succeeded in throwing a valid jack, it turned the jack over to team B, which was also allowed three attempts.  Basically, the two teams alternated in making three attempts until one of the attempts succeeded.

In the 2016 version of the rules, the team that throws the jack is allowed ONE attempt to throw a valid jack.  If it does not succeed, then the jack is turned over to the opposing team, which then has the responsibility of placing the jack.

Article 6: Start of play and rules regarding the circle

The team that won the right to throw the jack – either after the draw or because it scored in the previous mene – has the right to only one attempt [to throw the jack]. If it is not successful, the jack is given to the other team, which places it [the jack] wherever it wants within the conditions specified in the rules.

In the second sentence, note the use of the word “places” rather than “throws”. Team B is responsible for getting the jack on to the terrain in a valid location.  There are no rules about how team B does it.  The simplest and most reliable procedure is for a player to walk to the desired location, lean over, and use his hand to place the jack on the ground in the desired location.

The reason for this change is to speed up games.  According to Mike Pegg, each year at FIPJP tournaments there are problems with games taking too much time.  The one-throw-of-the-jack rule was used for a number of years in time-limited games, and it helped those games to proceed more quickly.  Trials of the rule in non-time-limited games were conducted at a number of European and world events, and a noticeable amount of time was saved each day.  Most teams quickly adapted to the new rule and were in favor of the change. Having passed these tests, the rule was officially adopted.


This change to the rules, like most changes, has generated questions. 

How does this affect the rules about challenging the jack?

There really are no significant changes to the rules about challenging the jack.  I’ve unpacked the new rules into six basic rule-scenarios. 

  1. After team A throws the jack, either team may challenge it.
     
  2. After team A throws the jack (apparently successfully) and throws the first boule, team A loses the right to challenge the jack.
     
  3. After team A throws the jack (apparently successfully) and throws the first boule, team B still has the right to challenge the jack. If the thrown jack is challenged and found to be invalid, team A is considered to have failed in its attempt to throw the jack, and team B places the jack.
     
  4. After team A throws the jack unsuccessfully, and team B places the jack, team B loses the right to challenge the jack.
     
  5. After team A throws the jack unsuccessfully, and team B places the jack, team A still has the right to challenge the jack. If team A challenges the placed jack and the placed jack is discovered not to have been placed in a valid location, team B is considered not to have accomplished its assigned task of placing the jack in a valid location and must place it again.  Basically, team B must keep placing the jack until they get it right.
     
  6. After team A throws the jack unsuccessfully and team B places the jack, and team A throws the first boule, team A loses the right to challenge the jack.

If team B places the jack, but places it in an invalid location (too short or too long), what should we do?

Scenario 5 answers a Frequently-Asked Question about the new rule— “If team B places the jack, but places it in an invalid location (too short or too long), what should we do?” The answer is— Team B should place the jack again. And they should try to do it properly this time! In an umpired game, placing the jack in an invalid location probably won’t earn team B a warning from the umpire. But it might. If (say) team B has repeatedly shown a casual attitude toward breaking the rules, the umpire might decide that it is time for a wake-up call and award a yellow card.

NOTE that the new rule does not answer The Pushed Jack Question. It has finally been resolved, but not by a change in the written rules (see THIS).

Can team B measure before placing the jack?

The answer is— if (say) team B wishes to place the jack at exactly 6m or 10m, they are allowed to measure before placing the jack. See THIS.

How does this change affect The Stepping-Back Rule?

It makes everything clearer. The old rule raised a lot of questions. “How many times can a team move the circle back?” “When does a team lose the right to move the circle back?” And so on. With the new rules, those questions go away.

  • When team A (the team that throws the jack) is ready to throw the jack, if the jack cannot be thrown to the maximum distance in any direction, team A can “step back” the circle in the traditional way.
  • When team B (the team that places the jack) is ready to place the jack, if the jack cannot be placed at the maximum distance in any direction, team B can “step back” the circle in the traditional way.

 
Criticisms of the new rule

There have been some serious criticisms of this change to the rules.

  • The change was made for the wrong reason— to improve the viewing experience of the TV-watching audience, rather than to improve the game itself.
  • It discourages cultivation of jack-throwing as a special skill, which some players treasure as a fine art.
  • It discourages aggressive attempts to throw the jack close to 10 meters. Players will begin throwing the jack to the bland and boring distance of 8 meters, rather than the exciting and challenging distance of 9.9 meters.

These criticisms seem to me to have some merit, but how serious they are— that is, how much the rule change will affect the way that players actually play— remains to be seen.


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