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AFL scraps smart-ball trial

Smart balls gets an inside look at revolutionary ball tracking technology
A PLAN to place a tiny ball-tracking device inside the match balls for the last weekend of the NAB Cup has been shelved by the AFL.

Catapult Sports, the Melbourne-based company whose GPS units are worn by players at training and during matches, has spent the past few years developing the technology.

Catapult's ball-tracking devices have been inserted into training balls at 17 of the 18 AFL clubs and, when combined with GPS data, gives clubs the complete on-field picture of player work rate and the success of team structures.

Melbourne high performance manager and former Adelaide coach Neil Craig has been an early adopter of the technology and hopes it will be made available to clubs on match days before too long.

"It would be the next step in terms of technology and would add another layer to the GPS data about physical workload. You know from the data where your players are on the ground in relation to the ball and that is fantastic data to have," he said.

Catapult business development manager (and 1991 Norm Smith medallist) Paul Dear, said Catapult's data is designed to complement the traditional match statistics compiled each week by Champion Data.

"We're not trying to replace those stats because the reality is we can't decide whether that was a kick or a handball. The only only way that can be accurate is for match stats to be taken.

"So we're not replacing Champion. Ours is more about looking at the game from a different view and to tell the story of every possession," he said.

An AFL spokesperson confirmed the League was reviewing the smart-ball's performance to see whether it might be suitable to trial in future matches.

AFL senior writer Ashley Browne is on Twitter @afl_hashbrowne