THE AFL is still considering whether it will allow teams to field additional players on the interchange bench this season, as it looks to finalise minor alterations to the game in preparation for the restart of the 2020 campaign.
The League's football operations boss Steve Hocking confirmed on Wednesday that it was still debating a push from senior AFL coaches to allow extra players on the bench, in what would be the final possible amendment ahead of the season recommencing on June 11.
If introduced, it would follow the introduction of shortened 16-minute quarters as the only changes to the game in the wake of a suspension period that has lasted nearly three months due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The AFL's Competition Committee – which features club coaches, football managers and players – debated the issue and the possibility of extending benches by "one or two" players on Wednesday, with a decision not likely to be made until the week of round two.
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"We're still considering that," Hocking said.
"It's the only thing we're considering as a potential final change or amendment to the game and we'll certainly confirm that leading into round two.
"The week leading into round two is when that will be finalised. But I just want to back over that and let the fans know, there's no further changes beyond what we are currently considering and working through with the coaches."
The AFL introduced reduced 16-minute quarters for round one due to the impacts of the COVID-19 virus, with the shortened length of matches set to continue throughout the remainder of both the home and away season and the finals series.
However, Hocking said the decision to retain the reduced quarter lengths for the remainder of the 2020 campaign does not automatically mean it will be persisted with in future seasons.
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"I think it's really important to reinforce what we've considered, which is 16-minute quarters … those changes were approved by the AFL Commission leading into round one because of the agility and flexibility we required," Hocking said.
"As Gillon (McLachlan) has gone on the record many times in saying, the way we start is not the way we finish. It's been really important to make sure that we look after our playing cohort and that their health and wellbeing is supported.
"We believe, as far as loading goes, we've had a significant disruption to the game and shutdown of the game … for those players to be at the best that they can be and to have the game at the best it can be, in 2020 only we felt that we needed to make those changes."
Hocking also reiterated that the AFL's top priority remains completing the final 144 games in the home and away fixture, saying the League is yet to turn its attentions to the exact Grand Final date nor its potential start time.
A date as to when players can resume contract negotiations with their respective clubs, as well as potential cuts to list sizes, soft cap reductions and salary cap limits, also remains unknown.