AFL UMPIRES have been available to clubs at training since December, with the League keen to prepare teams for the new rules coming in for the 2019 season.
Umpires have been visible faces at pre-season training sessions in recent months and AFL football operations manager Steve Hocking revealed it had been a deliberate ploy to have those in charge of officiating getting as much practice in as they can before the season starts.
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"This time last year the umpires weren't available to clubs until late January but they've been at clubs since December this pre-season," Hocking told AFL.com.au.
"They've done 50 or 60 sessions at clubs and it's all about trying to get the game into a rhythm and a consistency, that's what we've spent the summer doing and the clubs have welcomed that."
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Hocking said the initiative had seen major advantages ahead of the start of the season.
"We weren't necessarily able to do that last year because of the lack of access to umpires," Hocking said.
"They've actually been umpiring the game and what it will be going into this season so we've been really pleased with that."
Umpires have worked with players on explaining the intricacies of the nine new rules/interpretations in workshop-style sessions where clubs would give the umpires specific examples.
For instance, the umpires would run through a marking contest and adjudicate whether contact between players in regard to the adjusted 'push in the back rule' was legal or not.
Players were also given the opportunity to ask questions of the umpires about the new kick-in rules and how the 10m zone between the man on the mark and the person kicking in would be officiated.
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Umpires have also been available to officiate match simulation sessions and other contact-based drills at pre-season sessions.
Improving the line of communication between players and umpires has been seen as another major benefit, according to Hocking.
"Coaches and players have been open to that so that's good for the game and the umpires," he said.
Meanwhile, Hocking said the League had been pleased with how the rule modifications in the first round of the NAB AFLW competition had been received, particularly with the flow of ball movement.
The starting positions have already had an impact in the women's game and Hocking expects that to continue once the JLT Community Series begins.
"The skills were improved and how they (the AFLW players) execute that is the best we've seen in three years," he said.