Brad Scott hits out over 'unnecessary' AFL farce: 'Doesn't feel right'

Several AFL coaches, lead by Brad Scott, have called on the league to make a big change in the way teams are selected.

Essendon coach Brad Scott.
Brad Scott has called on the AFL to allow teams to name a 23-man team and decide on a substitute closer to each game. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Essendon coach Brad Scott has taken a shot at the AFL over team selection criteria, joining other coaches in calling on the league to allow teams to name a 23-man side. Under existing rules, teams must name a 22-man starting line-up, alongside the substitute as the 23rd.

However the issue of naming players in the side as opposed to the sub created plenty of angst in the lead-up to round four, with the Bombers' decision to make Dyson Heppell the sub shortly before their clash against the GWS Giants drawing surprise from many observes. A similar situation developed at Richmond, with Tigers coach Damien Hardwick frustrated over designating veterans Jack Riewoldt and Trent Cotchin as either 'omitted' or as the sub.

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Cotchin and Riewoldt were listed by Richmond as being 'managed'. Additionally, North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson also called on the AFL to allow teams to name a 23-man squad before deciding who would be the substitute closer to the game.

Scott, who held a role with the AFL for several years prior to accepting the Bombers' coaching job in late 2022, admitted it would be a difficult change to incorporate in the short term. But with an eye to the future he described 23-man squads as a move that 'makes sense'.

“But having worked at the AFL, I know the lawyers would hate that because they’ve got to re-write the entire rule because the rule is written around 22 players. So they’ve got to change a lot of things," he said.

“At the end of the day, it’s doable to change it and I think it’s just logical. Having to name Trent Cotchin as omitted when he’s not omitted just doesn’t feel right.

“It just creates unnecessary angst right across the board. I think the fans would also like to know who’s in our 23, rather than this guessing game.”

Bombers took advantage of AFL rules to name Dyson Heppell as sub

The Bombers were allowed to name Heppell in their original 22 before changing him to the sub at the last minute thanks to a quirk in the AFL rules regarding how and when players are listed as being out. Andrew Phillips, who didn't play in round three, was named in the side and because he was an inclusion and not previously listed as an omission.

Scott said the Bombers had checked with the AFL about making their decision on Heppell so late, with Phillips' inclusion as a second ruckman their preferred starting lineup. The Bombers made headlines when Heppell was substituted out of their round two win over the Gold Coast, before the former skipper struggled a week later in their loss to the Saints.

Dyson Heppell handballs for Essendon as he is tackled by a GWS Giants opponent.
Dyson Heppell was named as Essendon's substitute against the Giants, having an effective impact after coming on. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

“It was where we thought we could get an advantage. It’s a really hard one, I know there’s been some commentary throughout the week around naming a sub and having someone named out,” Scott said.

“We actually did seek some proactive clarification on that, that we could do what we did. We declared that to the AFL that that was the way we were going to approach it.

“But ultimately in terms of the selection, we felt two rucks was the way to go, and (Sam) Draper and Phillips were both really important. We had a situation where Phillips didn’t play last week, so we didn’t have to name our sub out, whereas other teams, if you’re going to make someone sub, you’ve got to name them as omitted.

“We certainly didn’t want to do that with Heppell, but we felt Heppell was the right sub for us this week, because we went with talls at both ends of the ground. That just gave us the flexibility that Dyson can play in multiple positions.”

with AAP

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