The AFL has decided to shake up the way clubs reveal their teams for the round ahead after several high-profile coaches voiced their concern last year.
The AFL re-introduced a sub rule for the 2023 season but, when teams were announced, only four players were named on the bench and the sub would be revealed (from the four emergencies) on gameday.
The problem with that method was players could appear as an “omission” or an “out”, even if the coach planned to have the player in the team as ‘the sub’.
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Last year coaches Chris and Brad Scott, Damien Hardwick and Alastair Clarkson all questioned the process and were against having someone named as an “out” when they were in fact “in”.
It could also cause unwanted headlines around certain players which the coaches found objectionable.
Brad Scott and Hardwick found it particularly distasteful — if not humiliating — when they wanted to use their ageing champions (and former captains) Dyson Heppell and Trent Cotchin as a sub.
A moment during a game last year when Trent Cotchin was ‘subbed out’. Credit: Channel 7
“I think it’s just logical (to change the way it’s announced) because having to name Trent Cotchin as omitted, when he’s not, it just doesn’t feel right,” Hardwick said early on in the season.
“It just creates unnecessary angst right across the board. I think the fans also would like to know who’s in our 23, rather than this guessing game.”
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The AFL has seemingly agreed with the sentiment around the unwanted headlines.
Among a raft of rule tweaks for the 2024 season unveiled on Tuesday, the AFL included changes to the teams announcements.
“The sub rule will continue,” the AFL said in a statement, “but clubs will now name an extended bench of five players (an increase from four) and three emergency players.”
Then, 60 minutes before a match, each team will reveal who is the sub from the five players named on the extended bench.
Other rule changes for the 2024 season
– Whistling from the interchange bench is prohibited
– The action of a player ruled to have committed a strike when intentionally shoving or fending an opponent will now be graded as Intentional rather than Careless (watch Charlie Ballard incident below, cited by the AFL as an example)
– In circumstances where a player elects to leave the ground in an attempt to smother the football, any reasonably foreseeable high contact with an opponent that is at least Low Impact will be deemed to be Careless at a minimum, unless the player has taken all reasonable steps to avoid that high contact and/or minimise the force of that high contact (for example, by adopting a body position that minimises the force of the high contact).
– If an offence is graded as Severe impact by the Match Review Officer but only the minimum penalty is sought, the MRO can prescribe a sanction and the player submit an early guilty plea without the case having to be referred directly to the Tribunal
– The in-finals ranking system has been codified to determine the ‘home’ club for Grand Finals in both the AFL and AFLW. The winners of the Qualifying Finals will be ranked first and second, the losers of the Qualifying Finals ranked third and fourth (the higher of the two clubs on the premiership ladder will be third) and the winners of the Elimination Finals ranked fifth and sixth (the higher of the two clubs on the premiership ladder will be fifth)