THE COMPETITION'S elite ball-winners should become even more damaging if rule changes proposed by the Competition Committee get the green light.
ON THE AGENDA What's being assessed for 2019
AFL football operations manager Steve Hocking said recent VFL trials of six-six-six starting positions at centre bounces had shown midfielders had one to three seconds more to dispose of the ball.
Give that extra time to star midfielders such as Patrick Dangerfield, Dustin Martin, Nat Fyfe, Tom Mitchell and Patrick Cripps, and watch them tear opposition defences apart.
At the moment, forwards and defenders can line up on the edge of the centre square and charge in as soon as the ball is bounced, quickly crowding the space midfielders have to operate in
It's one of the reasons the disposal efficiency of inside bulls such as Dangerfield (67.7 per cent in 2018), Martin (65.2), Fyfe (70), Mitchell (71.4) and Cripps (67.9) is a far way below prolific defenders like Rory Laird (77.6) and Jake Lloyd (79.3).
But that gap should close now all defenders and forwards have to start within their 50m arcs.
It should also mean less hacked kicks forward from bounces and more pin-point inside 50 entries to forwards. Think Hawthorn circa 2015 and the surgical precision of Sam Mitchell, Luke Hodge, Jordan Lewis and co.
Given forwards also won't have to deal with teams starting a seventh man in defence, could next year be the season someone kicks 100 goals for the first time since Lance Franklin in 2008?
Jack Riewoldt's winning total of 63 goals this year was the lowest Coleman return since John Peck won with 56 goals in 1965, while Eagle Josh Kennedy, in 2016, is the only player to reach 80 goals in the past nine seasons.
If the Commission approves centre square starting positions at its next meeting in Grand Final week, at least one of Riewoldt, Kennedy, Franklin, Ben Brown and Tom Hawkins should match that feat in 2019.
Forwards won't have it all their own way, however, with the Committee's other main recommended change set to make it harder for teams to lock the ball inside their forward 50m arcs.
An 18m long goalsquare – will the more apt 'goal rectangle' ever catch on? – will transform mere mortals into Dustin Fletcher, helping them to emulate the retired Bomber great's torpedo kick-ins that occasionally reached the centre circle.
Although teams that turned the ball over using this tactic in the VFL trials left themselves exposed to a quick counterattack, defenders will be prepared to play this risk-reward card at times, especially when they need to score quickly late in a game.
Teams trying to hang on to slim leads in the dying seconds will be a little more nervous because of it.
However, it should make the game a better spectacle.
At least that's the hope of Hocking and his game analysis team, who have clocked up thousands of hours of work this year searching for viable cures to congestion.