The AFL has resisted increasing the nine-metre goal square to 18 metres but has introduced nine rule changes that will come into play in 2019.
Among the changes, there will be an implementation of a traditional set-up at centre bounces while for kick-ins from a behind players will no longer need to kick to themselves.
The man on the mark will be positioned 10 metres from the top of the goal square, double the current demand.
The goal square is effectively redundant for the purpose of kick-ins, though it is still required for the new 6-6-6 setup at centre bounces and other rules such as set shots from straight in front if the ball is marked in the square.
Fans reacted strongly to the change, with some claiming the AFL threatened the 18m goal square on purpose:
They’ve gone from an 18 metre goal square to the goal square being redundant. Genius. AVB
— Andy Van Butsen (@BattenAndrew) October 11, 2018
So, they get their 20m goal square, but its invisible! and there will be meaningless paint and the ends of the ground? Brilliant
— Darren Broad (@drbroadgames) October 11, 2018
So instead of expanding the goal square, we've just made it largely irrelevant https://t.co/I73TSYxdXB
— Jesse Robinson (@Jesse3Robinson) October 11, 2018
Not sure why they didn't do away with the goalsquare altogether and create a 15 or 20 metre arc that is 'owned' by kick-in player. AFL, always promising innovation and never bold enough to genuinely implement it.
— Andrew (@andrew_54) October 11, 2018
The AFL has effectively created an elongated goal square without physically elongating the goal square. With the mark 10m away, no player’s staying in the square.
— Rudi (@RudiEdsall) October 11, 2018
Soooo they've extended the goal square without using the paint?
Standard incompetent @AFL
— Roksman (@Roksman_) October 11, 2018
The AFL wanted to change the goal square, but there was too much backlash…so they just changed the rules to allow for it. Pathetic rule changes again! No need for it @AFL
— BomberBoss (@Bombers_Boss) October 11, 2018
No 18m goal square but you won't have to kick it to yourself when playing on…..🤔
Why have a goal square at all? Just a spot on ground for man on mark will do!
— Matt Mills (@MattMills007) October 11, 2018
Listened to the fans?
RIP the kickout in front of the opposition cheersquad.
Once one of the great opportunities for supporters to get stuck into opposition players, gone as the goal square is rendered pointless.
Will miss the eruption as a player steps over the line.#AFL
— Sam Daddo (@sammydaddo) October 11, 2018
Is there a need for the goal square now defenders don’t have to kick to himself to play on? #pointless
— daniel smith (@dsmith_69) October 11, 2018
We've gone from potentially having a much bigger AFL goal square to not really needing one at all.
— Adam White (@White_Adam) October 11, 2018
What if the extended goal square was a front to outrage people and they never planned on doing it, so they could instead sneak heaps of other crap in relatively unnoticed? #afl pic.twitter.com/D97p4dRII3
— Jack Hudson (@jhudson_10) October 11, 2018
"We don't want you to extend the goal square."
"Fine then, you don't get a goal square."
— Titus O'Reily (@TitusOReily) October 11, 2018
Why have a goal square if you you can just walk out if it??
— Adam.C (@adzman78) October 11, 2018
Hot take – 18m goalsquare never intended to be implemented but proposed alongside other changes to draw the heat
— Sean McLachlan (@seanmclachlan) October 11, 2018
The AFL says the rule changes were necessary to promote high-scoring football.
New rules and interpretation changes for 2019
1. Traditional playing positions at centre bounces
Clubs must have six players inside both 50m arcs, with one player inside the goal square.
Four midfield players must start inside the centre square with the two wingmen stationed along the wing.
At kick-ins, a player will no longer need to kick to himself to play on from the goalsquare.
Following a behind, the man on the mark will be brought out to 10m from the top of the goalsquare, rather than the existing five metres.
3. Marks and free kicks in defence
When defenders mark or receive a free kick within nine metres of their own goal, the man on the mark will be brought in line with the top of the goalsquare.
4. Runners and water carriers
Team runners may only enter the playing surface after a goal has been kicked and must exit before play restarts.
Water carriers are not permitted to enter the playing surface during live play.
5. Umpire contact
Players will be prohibited from setting up behind the umpire at centre bounces.
6. 50m penalties
The player with the ball:
Must be allowed to advance the mark by 50m without the infringing player delaying the game.
Will be able to play on while the 50m penalty is being measured out.
7. Kicking for goal after the siren
A player who has been awarded a mark or free kick once play has ended:
Will now be able to kick across their body using a snap or check-side kick but must kick the ball directly in line with the man on the mark and the goal.
8. Marking contests
The ‘hands in the back’ rule interpretation has been repealed so a player can now:
Place his hands on the back of his opponent to protect his position in a marking contest provided he does not push his opponent in the back.
9. Ruck contests: prior opportunity
A ruckman who takes direct possession of the ball from a bounce, throw-up or boundary throw-in will no longer be regarded as having had prior opportunity.
Where there is uncertainty over who is the designated ruckman, the ruckman for each team will still be required to nominate to the field umpire.
So the AFL have just had one of the best Grand Finals in the last decade and now they decide to change the rules.. 🤔🤔
— Cameron Rayner (@ramcayner) October 11, 2018