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Sub rule abolished, interchange cap reduced

North's maim game, sub gone and more Footy Feed with Nat Edwards
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 11: Brent Harvey of the North Melbourne Kangaroos looks on from the players bench during the 2015 AFL round 15 match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the Geelong Cats at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne, Australia on July 11, 2015. (Photo by Scott Barbour/AFL Media)
Brent Harvey looks on in the green vest in round 15

THE SUBSTITUTE will be removed and the interchange cap reduced from 120 to 90 rotations per game in 2016 under changes announced to clubs on Thursday.

The game will return to four interchange players with clubs allowed to also make changes at quarter breaks.

Forced changes such as the blood rule, concussion assessment and stretcher changes will not be counted as part of the rotations.

The game has not had average rotations of around 90 since 2009 when the average rotations per team per game was 91.9 while in 2008 it was 80.3.

The substitute was introduced for the first time in 2011 as the AFL attempted to curb the number of interchange rotations per game, which had jumped to 117.4 rotations per team per game in 2010.

However the introduction of the interchange cap at 120 rotations per match across three players and a substitute in 2014 saw the substitute less important to ensure fairness if a team lost a player during the game due to injury.

The concussion substitute has also been an important benefit of the substitute but the AFL Medical Officers are comfortable the examination of players suspected of suffering concussion will still continue as required with coaches aware of the importance of that process.

AFL football operations manager Mark Evans said the reduction in rotation numbers along with the return of the fourth interchange player would see an average reduction in game time per player per game of five minutes.

He said trialling the cap at 120 in 2014-15 allowed considerable analysis to occur in the past two seasons.

"Throughout the 2014 and 2015 seasons, the AFL undertook considerable analysis in areas including rotation trends and use of the substitute, game style, injury rates and industry feedback," Evans said.

"The interchange cap of 120 over the past two years allowed clubs to transition back to 2010 levels of interchange numbers.

"The reduced spread of rotations appears to have lowered the impact of rotation rate on success in winning a game."

AFL Players' Association player relations manager Ian Prendergast said although the players' preference was for rotations to remain between 100-120, the additional player on the bench would limit the impact of reducing the number to 90.

"Overall, we are comfortable with the changes that have been made," Prendergast said.

"We thank the AFL for taking an open and transparent approach to these issues and thank all players for their contribution, particularly the newly formed Players and the Game Committee."

Port Adelaide's Aaron Young started in the green vest in 21 of his 42 AFL games, narrowly ahead of Hawthorn's Jonathan Simpkin who was a sub in 20 of his games since 2011, including being a sub when the Hawks won the 2013 premiership.

West Coast's Xavier Ellis, who was a premiership player at the Hawks in 2008, has ended a game in the red vest more than any other player having been subbed out of the game 11 times, one ahead of nine players who have been subbed out 10 times throughout their career.