The AFL’s competition committee has agreed to at least half a dozen rule changes aimed at reducing congestion but they appear unlikely to be trialled in late-season games after a fierce backlash against the proposal.
Football operations manager Steve Hocking on Wednesday refused to outline what changes had been agreed upon but said they would be recommended to the AFL commission and executive and could be introduced next season.
One of the most controversial suggestions – the introduction of starting positions with a six-six-six formation at centre bounces – remained on the table, Hocking confirmed.
At least six but potentially as many as 12 recommendations will be made for the AFL commission to consider for endorsement at meetings in August and September.
AFL chief Gillon McLachlan had earlier raised eyebrows when he suggested potential rule tweaks could be tested in matches that have no bearing on the top eight during the final rounds of the season.
Hall of Fame member Leigh Matthews said the experiment would be “demeaning” to the AFL while Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew also expressed reservations.
Hocking, who addressed reporters midway through Wednesday’s committee meeting, did not rule out trials at AFL level but conceded the league needed to work through whether they would compromise the integrity of the competition.
“There’s really strong agreement as far as the next level … that would be our starting point, definitely,” he said.
“The second-tier competitions, they’re queuing up to actually trial the things that we’re looking at.
“Whether it finds its way into an AFL match, that’s clearly a discussion for the commission at some stage.”
Sydney chief executive Andrew Ireland said the Swans and Brisbane had agreed to trial rule changes during their upcoming NEAFL games.
In regards to trialling rule changes in current season – every game matters for fans, draft picks and integrity. If it happens I hope Melbourne FC are refunded $500,000 and apologies are issued. Every games integrity mattered then, why not now?
— Cameron Ling (@CameronLing) July 25, 2018
Test games at AFL level could include bottom-placed Carlton’s games against Fremantle in round 21 and the Western Bulldogs in round 22, as well as the round 22 clash between Gold Coast and Brisbane.
A major hurdle for the league would be finding a way to ensure the draft order is not compromised.
Carlton appear certain to finish bottom of the ladder and receive the No.1 draft pick but just four points separate the 14th-placed Bulldogs from 17th-placed Suns.
Hocking said the committee had started out with 45 potential rule changes and worked towards options that would not radically alter the game.
“It’s important the fans understand that they should take a level of calmness away from these interviews and these discussions,” Hocking said.
“We’re not looking to drop things into the game that are going to upset the rhythm of the game.”