Richmond Tigers coach Damien Hardwick has lamented new rules being trialled in VFL practice matches to ensure there are less players around the ball, declaring the games he's seen were 'nothing like AFL'.
The VFL has been trialling anti-density rules in practice matches, which require three players from each team to be inside their 50m arc at boundary line throw-ins and ball-ups.
One of those three players must be in the goalsquare, with the side effect being a massive amount of free kicks paid for players either being in the wrong position or taking too long to get into position.
The new VFL rules follow the lead set by the AFL with the 6-6-6 positioning format for centre bounces after a goal, but takes it a step further by attempting to address congestion around the ball at every stoppage, not just after a goal has been scored.
Hardwick addressed the issue after Richmond's AFL victory over Hawthorn on Saturday, saying the new rules were making it more difficult for clubs to develop younger players in the state league.
"The challenge for us is just fitting them in and giving them opportunities to play, because the game unfortunately at that lower level, with the rules, is very, very challenging,” Hardwick said.
“It’s hard to prepare them for AFL level. It’s so non-AFL like what we’re seeing at the moment.
“So that’s going to be an enormous challenge for our players — they’re going to have to do top-up running, because it’s nothing like AFL at the minute.
“The free kicks today at VFL level were laughable.
“We’ve expressed our concerns (to the AFL) so it’s over to them, really. We’re trying to prepare players for the very best competition in the world, I think. We probably need to have a lower league with probably the same rules, I would think.
“I think sanity would prevail at some stage, would it not?”
AFL coaches unhappy with VFL rules trial
Hardwick's comments came a few days after Western Bulldogs coach Beveridge said the rules will stunt the development of young players, while North Melbourne counterpart David Noble also gave them the thumbs down.
The Kangaroos coach said three free kicks were paid against his side in a recent VFL scratch match, one of which he could not work out.
"It takes too long to reset and it changes the roles that we're looking for our players to play coming into the AFL," Noble said last week.
"I was involved in the trial when the AFL came up a couple of years ago to Brisbane when we had three in the front half. That actually made sense.
"But pushing one back to the goal square from a D50 (stoppage) just didn't make sense for me.
"I understand trying to 'de-densify' numbers, I'm not against that, but the length that we actually had to take ... it needs a lot more discussion before it gets put in."
Hardwick is hopeful the rules will be scrapped before the VFL home-and-away season begins on April 16, describing the disparity between the AFL and second-tier competition as the "biggest challenge" facing coaches right now.
"It's hard to prepare the players under the rules that they're playing at the moment at the lower level," Hardwick said.
"It's really challenging. I hope common sense will prevail.
"At the moment it's taking guys 18 seconds to readjust into their forward half, so the GPS results are so (different) from what is required at AFL level.
"Something has to change."
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