New rules trialled amid historic AFL thrillers

Jason Phelan
New rules trialled amid historic AFL thrillers

On the same day the AFL ramped up its trial of potential new rules, history was made when five matches in the same round were decided by a goal or less for the first time.

Richmond got the ball rolling on Friday night with a nail-biting three-point win over Geelong at the MCG.

On a super Saturday, Hawthorn (four points over Essendon), North Melbourne (three points over Brisbane), Adelaide (three points over Port Adelaide) and Sydney (two points over Collingwood) prevailed in absolute belters.

With thrilling AFL matches going on around the country, league football boss Steve Hocking attended the VFL clash between Coburg and Werribee.

The AFL is testing possible rule changes which could be tested at the highest level of the game. Pic: Getty

It marked an escalation of the league's investigation into rule tweaks designed to increase scoring and help ease congestion that has been a factor in rising supporter dissatisfaction and dwindling TV ratings.

The 6-6-6 starting positions at centre bounces and extended (18m) goal squares were tested for the first time in an official game environment.

"I thought the distribution of players looked a little different, so we'll just analyse that," AFL game analysis official James Podsiadly told the league's website after the match.

"From our end, having a look at the goal square and the 6-6-6, the distribution of players did change for a moment in time and then it gets washed out pretty quickly and the strategy happens from there."

The debate over the state of the game has raged throughout the season.

Trials of rule tweaks, which also included allowing players to run longer without bouncing the ball, have been undertaken during practice sessions held by four clubs with more to come.

AFL Players Association president Patrick Dangerfield is among those open-minded on potential changes but the weekend of highly-entertaining clashes has many calling for the status quo to continue.

"I think I'll take the current game. Thanks AFL. Hope you enjoyed the game at Coburg," star Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn tweeted.

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Crows coach Don Pyke felt his side's thrilling local derby win over Port was solid evidence no changes are required.

"There has been a lot of commentary about the state of the game," he said.

"But if you sat down and watched that game of footy you'd walk away saying that the game is in pretty good shape."

Any rule changes or tweaks considered worthy of implementation by Hocking and his team will be put to the AFL Commission for approval in October.