The AFL has today formally written to clubs and briefed them on the confirmed amendments to the AFL Laws of the Game, AFL Tribunal Guidelines and AFL Regulations and Rules.
Clubs and the AFLPA were consulted for feedback on the proposed changes in December 2023 prior to submitting the amendments to the AFL Commission for approval yesterday.
A number of amendments were approved by the AFL Commission with key highlights of the changes included below.
Naming of the Sub
The sub will continue in 2024, and in an amendment to the announcement of teams, Clubs will now name an extended interchange bench of five players and three emergency players.
The sub will be confirmed 60 minutes prior to the match.
Tribunal/MRO – Amendments to the AFL Regulations and AFL Tribunal Guidelines
Substantive changes have been made to the AFL Tribunal Guidelines in relation to smothers, run-down tackles and striking, aimed at making the game safer for players.
In circumstances where a player elects to leave the ground in an attempt to smother the football, any reasonably foreseeable high contact with an opponent that is at least Low Impact will be deemed to be Careless at a minimum, unless the player has taken all reasonable steps to avoid that high contact and/or minimise the force of that high contact (for example, by adopting a body position that minimises the force of the high contact).
Run Down Tackles
An area of concern in 2023 was instances of run-down tackles where the tackling player significantly contributed to the force with which the tackled player is driven to ground that were not sanctioned. The AFL has amended the Guidelines to state that there may be types of run-down tackles that are dangerous and which constitute a Reportable Offence (i.e. run down tackles where the tackled player is driven into the ground with excessive force).
In addition, the guidelines for the grading of striking have been strengthened to increase the onus on players to not commit a strike even when seeking to fend and push their opponent. In instances where a player intends to forcefully push or fend an opposition player off the ball (including to gain separation for the purpose of contesting the ball) and the effect is that the player “strikes” their opponent, the strike will usually be graded as Intentional rather than Careless.
There will also be a change in interpretation of the Laws of the Game to permit straight arm blocks in a ruck contest, provided the player still contests the ball.
Previously, pursuant to the AFL Regulations, any Classifiable Offence where the impact is graded as Severe was referred directly to the Tribunal, with the MRO not specifying any sanction.
In instances where the AFL only seeks the minimum prescribed suspension on a Severe impact grading, at the AFL’s discretion the MRO will specify that the charged player may take an early plea and accept that sanction without a Tribunal hearing occurring. If the player seeks to challenge the charge, they may do so at the Tribunal in the usual way.
The AFL will retain discretion to directly refer a Severe impact grading, in instances where the minimum prescribed suspension is sought, if it considers that the particular circumstances of the matter warrant it being heard and determined by the Tribunal.
Additional Amendments to AFL Regulations
The in-finals ranking system used to determine the ‘home’ Club for the AFL and AFLW Grand Finals will be codified.
Under the ranking system, the Clubs who win the Qualifying Finals will be the first and second ranked Clubs for the purposes of determining the home Club for Grand Finals.
The two losing Clubs from the Qualifying Finals will be ranked in third and fourth position (third position will be the higher of the two Clubs on the Premiership Ladder).
The two winning Clubs from the Elimination Finals will be ranked in fifth and sixth position (fifth position will be the higher of the two Clubs on the Premiership Ladder).
Whistling from interchange bench
A minor amendment to the Regulations has been introduced prohibiting whistling from the Interchange bench. This change is a result of excessive whistling from club officials on the interchange bench.
All amendments approved by the AFL Commission to the Laws of the Game, AFL Tribunal Guidelines and AFL Regulations and Rules will be updated and come into effect immediately ahead of the start of the 2024 Toyota Premiership Season.