THE AFL will introduce nine new rule and interpretation changes for 2019, including starting positions for centre bounces and revamped rules around kick-ins from behinds.

The hands-in-the-back rule will also be scrapped.

It is hoped the package of changes will produce more free-flowing, instinctive football and more one-on-one contests.

The League advised clubs on Thursday that the Commission had approved the changes after more than a year of consultation by the game analysis team headed by AFL football operations manager Steve Hocking. 

FULL STATEMENT AFL announces new rule changes and interpretations

The Commission did not approve the 18m goalsquare recommended by the game analysis team via the club-based Competition Committee, but has endorsed two rules changes that will give players more space and time at kicks-ins.

Under the changes, the man on the mark will be positioned an extra five metres back at kick-ins and players will be able to play on from the goalsquare without first kicking the ball to themselves. 

As expected, ‘traditional’ playing positions will be enforced at centre bounces next year, with six players required to start in the two 50m arcs and four in the centre square zone, with two on the wings. Each team will need to start with one player inside each goalsquare.

Players will also be given more space to take their kick after marking or receiving a free kick deep in defence, and the freedom to play on after receiving a 50m penalty. 

Around-the-body set shots after the siren will also be allowed, while the hands-in-the-back interpretation at marking contests and prior opportunity interpretation at ruck contests will be relaxed.

"We have listened to our fans, players, coaches, umpires and clubs. The rule changes and interpretations protect and respect the traditions of Australian Football while progressing our game," Hocking said.

"We all want more of what makes our game great – free-flowing passages of play, one-on-one contests, and players having space to play on instinct.

"These changes are about giving players the best chance to play the best game, and giving the fans more of what they love."

The changes

Traditional playing positions at centre bounces

  • Clubs must have six players inside both 50m arcs, with one player inside the goalsquare.
  • Four midfield players must start inside the centre square with the two wingmen stationed along the wing.  


  • At kick-ins, a player will no longer need to kick to himself to play on from the goalsquare.
  • Following a behind, the man on the mark will be brought out to 10m from the top of the goalsquare, rather than the existing five metres.  

Marks and free kicks in defence  

  • When defenders mark or receive a free kick within nine metres of their own goal, the man on the mark will be brought in line with the top of the goalsquare.

Runners and water carriers

  • Team runners may only enter the playing surface after a goal has been kicked and must exit before play restarts.
  • Water carriers are not permitted to enter the playing surface during live play.

Umpire contact

  • Players will be prohibited from setting up behind the umpire at centre bounces. 

50m penalties

  • The player with the ball: 
    • Must be allowed to advance the mark by 50m without the infringing player delaying the game.
    • Will be able to play on while the 50m penalty is being measured out. 

Kicking for goal after the siren 

  • A player who has been awarded a mark or free kick once play has ended: 
    • Will now be able to kick across their body using a snap or check-side kick 
    • BUT must kick the ball directly in line with the man on the mark and the goal. 

Marking contests

  • The 'hands in the back’ rule interpretation has been repealed so a player can now:
    • Place his hands on the back of his opponent to protect his position in a marking contest
    • PROVIDED he does not push his opponent in the back.

Ruck contests: prior opportunity

  • A ruckman who takes direct possession of the ball from a bounce, throw-up or boundary throw-in will no longer be regarded as having had prior opportunity.
  • Where there is uncertainty over who is the designated ruckman, the ruckman for each team will still be required to nominate to the field umpire.