WITH the look and feel of the game now the hot-button topic in the game, the AFL has enlisted its most successful coach to help chart a course for the future.
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson used the bye week to stage a training session on Saturday morning and it was moved to Etihad Stadium after a request from the AFL to "try a few things".
The match practice sessions included some new wrinkles and was watched by several key AFL officials.
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At various stages of the scratch match, there had to be either three or four players from each team parked inside the 50-metre arc following each centre bounce and also for a time, at every stoppage.
The use of zones, either at every stoppage or after goals, is seen as one way to reduce the increased congestion around the ball and to make the game more free-flowing.
Other suggestions include fewer interchange rotations, eliminating the interchange altogether and replacing them with substitutes, and reducing the number of players on the ground to 16 per side.
AFL umpires officiated at Saturday morning's session and was filmed by the League for further analysis. Among those in attendance were AFL general manager of football operations Steve Hocking, head of coaching David Rath, umpires boss Grant Williams, game analyst Brett Munro and football operations manager Pat Clifton.
AFL officials are keen to stage more trials with clubs over the next few weeks, continuing a practice that started late last year when North Melbourne was enlisted to help trial the rules for AFLX.
Rath joined the League at the start of the year as head of coaching after 13 years as a senior assistant at Hawthorn, where he worked under Alastair Clarkson as he led the Hawks to four premierships.
Rath is working closely with Hocking, looking at different ways the game might be played, with changes set to be implemented as early as next season. Any changes would need to come through the new Competition Committee and signed off by the AFL Commission.
Hocking has indicated that any changes for next season would be announced in early October, before the start of the trade and free agency periods.
It is believed the Hawks were always planning a major training session ahead of their round 13 clash with Adelaide and once the AFL learned of this, they contacted the Hawks to see whether they could trial some ideas.
Having the session behind closed doors at Etihad Stadium allowed the club and the AFL to conduct the trials away from the public, which would have been impossible at the club's Waverley Park base.