AFL confirms rule changes but scraps 18-metre goal square

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The AFL has announced nine rule and interpretation changes for the 2019 season, but it has rejected the proposed introduction of an 18-metre goal square.

Key points:

  • The 6-6-6 rule at centre bounces was approved
  • The hands in the back rule was discarded
  • The AFL wants the changes to created a more attractive game for spectators

The 6-6-6 rule, which sees teams having six players in each of their defensive and forward arcs and six in the midfield at each centre bounce, has been given the green light as a way of reducing congestion.

The AFL Commission knocked back the idea of increasing the size of the goal square, which was trialled during the VFL season.

AFL football operations manager Steve Hocking said the changes were designed to create more "free-flowing passages of play" and "one-on-one contests".

"For us we believe within these nine changes we are actually looking after the heritage in parts," Hocking told a media conference in Melbourne.

"We are also progressing it at the same time so we are pretty excited about that."

The contentious 18-metre goal square proposal had been recommended by the AFL's competition committee last month, but the commission chose to instead endorse two rule changes regarding kick-ins.

A player will no longer need to kick to himself to play on from the goal square, while the man on the mark will be positioned 10 metres back at kick-ins rather than five metres.

"The commission had a range of options put in front of them (about the goal square) and where we have landed we are very comfortable with," Hocking said.

Luke Shuey contests the ball in the Eagles versus Bulldogs match in Perth.

The AFL has removed the 'hands in the back' rule, meaning a player can now place his hand on the back of an opponent in a marking contest as long as it is not a push.

Other rule and interpretation changes include:

Defensive marks and free kicks

When a defender marks or is given a free kick within nine metres of their goal the man on the mark must be brought into line with the top of the goal square.

50-metre penalties

Players are allowed to play on while the penalty is being measured out, and they can advance the mark by 50 metres without the penalised player delaying the match.

Ruck contests

Ruck contests will also see changes, with ruckmen no longer having prior opportunity when they take direct possession from a bounce, throw-up or throw-in.

A ruckman for each team will still need to be nominated to the field umpire when there is uncertainty over who is the designated ruckman.

Kicking for goal after the siren

When a player is awarded a mark or free kick once play has ended he will now be able to kick across his body using a snap or check-side kick.

But the player is required to kick the ball in line with the man on the mark and the goal.

Umpire contact

Players will not be allowed to set up behind the umpire at centre bounces.

Runners and water carriers

Team runners can only come on the field of play after a goal has been scored and they must exit before the re-start of play.

Water carriers are not allowed to come on the field during live play.

Tom Mitchell with the ball as he tries to beat the defence of Kane Lambert.

"The changes, and where we have landed, is about protecting what is great about the game," Hocking said.

"The fast, open nature of the game, unique skills of the players and we're looking also to even up the defensive and offensive strategies in the game."

The AFL's competition committee and games analysis team had spoken with clubs, the AFL Players' Association and the AFL Coaches Association, as well as the league's medical officers and other industry groups during the consultation process.

"It's (consultation) been extensive," Hocking said.

"We've also consulted with our fans, we've listened to the fans as we have worked through this over the last 10 months."

The new rules were first tested in an official match during a VFL fixture between Coburg and Werribee in August.

They were trialled in a total of three VFL matches.

Original Article

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