License article

Super power takes control at the AFL

An all-powerful super panel under the stewardship of AFL football boss Steve Hocking will become the sole group consulted on every key football decision.

In a radical overhaul, Hocking will hand-pick a group of 10-12 of the game’s most respected figures, including current coaches, players, chief executives and presidents, to form the panel, which will be installed before round one.

All major decisions, including rule changes, player movement, the fixture and the general look of the game will fall under the new panel’s umbrella.

The laws of the game committee and the league’s player movement working group will cease to exist independently.

The panel will oversee AFL X and AFLW as well as the AFL. One of its priorities will be to organise an ideal schedule, across all three leagues, so that Australian football dominates the sporting calendar year round. It will take responsbility for other significant issues, like a night Grand Final.

Hocking, who will chair the panel, will make recommendations to the AFL commission, which will still ultimately have the final say.


Geelong star Patrick Dangerfield, the new president of the AFL Players Association, looks an obvious choice to be drafted onto the panel.

Alastair Clarkson is likely to be approached, given his standing in the game as a four-time premiership coach at Hawthorn, as will the likes of Sydney coach John Longmire.

High-profile club administrators like Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale, Geelong chief Brian Cook, long-time West Coast boss Trevor Nisbett and Sydney chairman Andrew Pridham are all likely candidates.

The administrative shake-up is designed largely to provide more clarity for players, clubs and fans about how decisions are made.

It will also allow Hocking to cut through red tape to expedite decisions without consulting with each and every club individually.

The rules committee has always been contentious inside the football industry, with many questioning its specific role.

Realistically, it is a thinktank, comprised mostly of past players, to talk through the main issues in the game. It does not make recommendations to the commission.

For example, the much-maligned changes to the "third man up" rule in 2016 were made by the commission after a recommendation from then football boss Mark Evans, who had consulted the rules committee at the time. It consisted of  Brett Burton, Wayne Campbell, Michael Christian, Neil Craig, Chris Fagan, Tom Harley, Chris Judd, Hayden Kennedy, Leigh Matthews and Jack Riewoldt.

The AFL believes the new system will make decision-making more transparent, as well as more contemporary and faster.

Had it been in place previously, the bounce would have been eradicated three years ago, when the laws of the game committee unanimously voted to scrap it.

Topping the priorities for the new panel will be a mid-season trading period, which is all but certain to be instituted in 2019.

The panel will also look to construct a calendar by which the AFL, AFLW and AFLX seasons will roll into one another seamlessly.

Ultimately, key decision-makers at league headquarters want player contracts to end each year on October 31 so that players can sign with private AFLX franchises, meaning the likes of Dangerfield, Dustin Martin and Nat Fyfe could all play for the same team.

While the AFL commission will still have the final say, the super panel will almost certainly dilute some of the commission's power.