AFL players want the interchange rules to stay unchanged. Photo: Pat Scala
PLAYERS have told the AFL they do not want the interchange system to be changed next season.
The AFL Players Association has submitted a detailed response to the league outlining why the system of three on the bench and one substitute should remain.
The AFLPA general manager of player relations, Ian Prendergast, said players opposed tinkering or overhauling the system, which has been in place for only two seasons, and wanted more research on how this was affecting them tactically and physically.
''Players have made their submission to the AFL in relation to laws of the game considerations,'' he said.
''There is no support whatsoever from players in relation to a two-and-two interchange rule being introduced or any further changes to the interchanges or rotations that would increase the workload of players.
''Players are saying they are still adjusting to the three-and-one substitute rule and we need to monitor it over an extended period of time.''
The AFL has asked for feedback on three options for next season; two on the bench and two substitutes, a three-and-one system but with a cap of 80 rotations a game; or maintaining the status quo.
The AFL says congestion remains a concern, which it believes is linked to the interchange system. The AFL also believes interchange rates will continue to rise.
Club doctors also say they are under greater pressure to keep a second injured player going in some capacity under the current system.
The AFL says a two-and-two system could cut the rest time of players from 17.1 minutes to 12 minutes a game, thereby reducing their speed and intensity and leading to the game opening up earlier. A cap of 80 interchanges could also help.
The AFLPA is awaiting a response from league headquarters.
Players have also closely monitored the first week of free agency, which included the move of former Saint Brendon Goddard to Essendon, former Cat Shannon Byrnes to Melbourne, former Crow Chris Knights to Richmond and Port Adelaide's Troy Chaplin to Richmond.
''What free agency does deliver is improved balance between the rights of clubs and the rights of players, so that these are on more of an even keel,'' Prendergast said.
''The transparency and efficiency of the movement has been good. Just exactly how straightforward these have been may have taken people a bit by surprise, but that's what we expected and I think overall clubs and players have been very professional.''
He denied suggestions free agency would lead to less loyalty. ''From a player's point of view, it encourages clubs to focus more on the environment which they create in terms of trying to retain and attract free agents.''
Hawthorn midfielder Brad Sewell, also an AFLPA board member, said free agency ''swings things back a bit'' towards the players.
''The clubs have certainly had all the power and responsibility for quite a long period of time,'' he said. ''It's nice the players now have a bit more ownership and a bit more responsibility in terms of where they end up.''
Prendergast said it was too early to buy into suggestions restricted free agency would eventually kick in at six years, rather than at eight as is the case now, and unrestricted free agency at eight years, rather than the current 10.