Interchange cap gets one-year reprieve
Richmond's Tyrone Vickery and Carlton's Matthew Kreuzer battle in the ruck. Photo: Pat Scala
A CAP on the interchange has been given a one-year reprieve but the AFL has acted to try to tidy the look of the game with a clutch of other changes.
The AFL Commission resolved to do nothing - next year - with the proposal to further reduce the volume of interchanges with a proposal to cap interchanges at 20 per quarter shelved, with an eye to potential introduction in 2014.
The cap on the bench will be trialled in next year's NAB Cup and that trial and the effects of other rule interpretations that are to be brought in for next season will be analysed before ratifying the in-principle decision to cap the bench the year after.
The decision to defer changes to the bench for next year was broadly applauded by the players, clubs and coaches. Opponents of change hope the next 12 months will present the window in which to persuade the commission there was no need for a cap.
The AFL Laws of the Game committee proposals put forward by the AFL executive were for a cap of 20 interchanges a quarter, plus whatever changes occur at the end-of-quarter breaks, or changing the bench to two interchange players and two substitutes.
While the interchange cap was put off, the AFL introduced other measures to address issues of player safety and the aesthetics of the game.
The AFL has scrapped bouncing the ball at ruck stoppages around the ground. The ball will only be bounced in the centre at the start of quarters and after goals.
Ruckmen at around-the-ground ball-ups and throw-ins will not be able to make contact until the ball leaves the umpire's hand as the AFL continues its push to legislate the old-style wrestling ruckman out of existence. In other changes:
■Players sliding in and making forceful contact below the knees of an opponent will give away a free kick.
■Players who pile on to players with the ball and sit or lie on the back of a player with the ball will be penalised for a push in the back or high contact.
■Players who drag the ball into an opponent in a tackle can be penalised for holding the ball.
■Umpires will be ordered to be stricter in punishing players for holding the ball where they do not make a genuine attempt to kick or handball.
■The ''protected area'' or exclusion zone in which opposition players cannot run when a player is taking a kick from a free or mark will be more strictly policed. Opposition players must be within two metres, not five, of a player they follow into that protected area.
AFL football operations manager Adrian Anderson said all rule changes or re-interpretations were made with a view to the safety of players and the spectacle of the game.
The interchange cap of 20 per quarter plus changes at quarter-time breaks will be trialled in the NAB Cup. Anderson said that, under the proposal, when a club exceeded its 20-interchange quota per quarter a player who came off the ground could not return for 15 minutes.
While the commission had decided to wait 12 months and review the data before introducing a cap to the bench, AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou defended the premise of the need for change.
''I think it is legitimate for people to say why do you tinker with the rules when the game is in such a healthy state, I think that is legitimate,'' Demetriou said.
But he was unapologetic about constantly reviewing and suggesting changes to the game saying it was ''nonsense'' and ''garbage'' to suggest a moratorium on game changes as some had mooted.
Demetriou also defended the proposed interchange changes from criticisms they have drawn from clubs and sports scientists, whom Demetriou has in the past suggested have too big a say in the game.
''Our job … is to take into account all views and on balance make decisions in the best interests of the game and sometimes that is against the views of sports scientists, sometimes against the views of players, sometimes it irks supporters but on balance you try to make a decision in the best interests of the game and on balance I think the commission gets those decisions right,'' he said.
Some senior AFL players used social media to applaud the decision to wait on introducing a cap.
''The @AFL commission contains intelligent & stoic types. Tough to juggle stakeholders' views. Appear to have made sound decisions today,'' Matthew Pavlich tweeted.