Hocking ticks off AFL medical sub use

·3-min read

AFL football boss Steve Hocking has faith clubs will use the contentious medical substitute rule fairly after seeing it in action for the first time.

Richmond and Carlton have been praised by Hocking for how they activated their 23rd man in Thursday night's season-opener at the MCG.

Oscar McDonald became the league's first medical substitute, when he came into the game at half-time for Blues teammate Jack Silvagni, who is expected to miss an extended period due to a shoulder dislocation.

But Tigers defender Nick Vlastuin (knee) remains a chance to play in round-two after being subbed off for Jack Ross late in the third quarter.

When introducing the substitute, the AFL said it was for injuries that looked set to sideline a player for 12 days - though for any injury bar concussion, there is no mandated break.

"I've only got complimentary remarks about how both the clubs used it," Hocking told SEN.

"We have got trust in our doctors and we have got the right processes in place to address whatever might come out of the medical sub."

Hocking admitted the idea for the rule came about after a meeting with the league's coaches last week and was fast-tracked into action.

The discussion started due to tightened protocols around concussion, but the rule quickly moved to cover any game-ending injury.

"We referred back to the grand final of last year and looked at a situation where a player got concussed early and a player hurt his shoulder," Hocking said.

"We felt the teams should have the ability to look after the health and safety of all players."

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said Western Bulldogs counterpart Luke Beveridge was on his own with his opposition to medical substitute.

On Thursday Beveridge said the "rushed" rule, introduced a day before the season started, created a "whole series of headaches", but Clarkson insisted every other head coach supported the change.

"I think there were 17 that were vocal with it - I think Bevo was the only one who from all reports post has not been - and that's probably only because he wasn't in the meeting," Clarkson said on Friday.

"We all discussed at that meeting, first and foremost it's about the welfare of the players.

"The game is as brutal and as physical as it's ever been ... so we need to have a real mind for the protection of the player."

Hardwick said his players went "down like ninepins" late in the game and supported the substitute rule, believing it would improve the spectacle across the competition.

Clarkson said Hawthorn's doctors had been instructed to make a decision purely on whether the player was fit to see out the game.

"We said to our docs yesterday 'don't worry about next week or anything - you make a ruling on whether the player can return to the field of play or not, if you don't think he can then sub him out,' Clarkson said.

"Then we'll deal with what happens next week later on and the AFL can deal with that in terms of whether or not he should play the next week."