AFL sub rule a benefit for rookies: Noble

·2-min read

North Melbourne coach David Noble says there is benefit in picking AFL debutants in the medical substitute role, regardless of whether they end up playing any game time.

Eddie Ford was named as the Kangaroos' fourth debutant of the year but was left on the bench throughout his side's 29-point defeat to the Western Bulldogs on Sunday.

The 19-year-old finished the night running through fitness and skills drills with a member of the club's football department well after the final siren at an empty Marvel Stadium.

North Melbourne also gave Charlie Lazzaro his first game as a substitute in round one, when he had just one kick in a brief appearance.

Lazzaro and fellow first-year player Will Phillips have been used as substitutes twice each, with both being activated once and left on the bench on the other occasion.

"It's great experience for them," Noble said.

"Whilst they don't get on the ground, they sit there in all the meetings, they train, they warm up, and we're picking our guy on the expectation that he's in the best 23 for the week.

"It's frustrating because you'd like to be able to activate him and bring him into the game, but over the last four or five weeks we haven't had to use that sub.

"I still think it's terrific experience for those guys where we're at."

The issue of whether players should be credited with a game when they are unused substitutes has been a talking point since the rule was introduced this year.

It was under the spotlight in round one, when Hawthorn's Connor Downie didn't play a minute of his AFL debut in a come-from-behind win over Essendon.

Prominent commentators, including past players such as Nick Riewoldt and Jonathan Brown, have voiced their concerns about the impact the substitute role can have on young players.

But Noble takes the opposite view and said his players also see the positives.

"I consider it as a squad of 23; not of 22 and a sub," Noble said.

"I think you need to pick your best 23, which we did with Charlie Lazzaro when he debuted, as well, and he was able to get on.

"But if you talk to all the young guys, they're keen to roll the dice and take that chance."

North Melbourne were competitive against the flag favourite Bulldogs but were ultimately outclassed in pursuit of their third win for 2021.

They are due to take on West Coast in Perth in round 17 but are still awaiting AFL confirmation of the fixture.

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