THE AFL on Wednesday wrote to all clubs to advise the AFL Commission had approved changes to the Laws of Australian Football to be implemented in the 2021 Toyota AFL Premiership Season and a further game adjustment to be implemented in the 2021 VFL and East Coast Second-Tier Competition.
AFL Executive General Manager Football Operations Steve Hocking said these changes are the result of continued analysis of the game and ongoing industry consultation, and are designed to protect and enhance the unique characteristics of Australian Football to ensure the game is the best it can be for all supporters.
"The evolution of the game has seen an increase in defensive structures and these changes combined are designed to provide a better balance between attack and defence while encouraging more open ball movement," Mr Hocking said.
"We have some of the most skillful athletes in the world, and the three changes are designed to reduce the defensive capability of teams and open up the game, providing an opportunity for players to have more freedom to play on instinct and show off their natural flair.
"Our game is in good shape but we all want more of what makes our game great and while there are always great moments of brilliance in the AFL, these changes aim to increase those moments and provide more opportunities for players to showcase their talents and ultimately give supporters more of what they love.
"The changes approved by the AFL Commission for the AFL competition will see a reduction in the number of interchanges permitted per match, an adjustment for the player standing the mark and an increase in the distance for a player standing the mark from a kick in.
"The Commission also approved a further adjustment to be implemented in the VFL and East Coast Second-Tier Competition that will see three players stationed inside 50 metres, including one player in the goal square, for all kick ins and boundary throw ins."
The Commission has accepted the following game adjustments ahead of the 2021 Toyota AFL Premiership Season:
1 / A maximum of 75 total player interchanges per match
Rotations will decrease from 90 per match in 2020 to 75 per match in 2021. Each team will continue to be permitted four interchange players.
2 / Player Standing The Mark
The defending Player will only be permitted minimal lateral movement on The Mark. If the defending player moves off The Mark in any direction prior to "Play On" being called, a 50-metre penalty will apply. The defensive team is unable to substitute the Player on The Mark.
3 / Location of The Mark at Kick Ins
The Mark shall be set at 15 metres from the centre of the Kick-Off Line towards the centre of the ground at Kick Ins. This was previously set at 10 metres.
The Commission also accepted the following adjustment to be implemented in the 2021 VFL and East Coast Second-Tier Competition:
1 / Three players to be stationed inside 50 metres at each stoppage
A minimum of three Players from each team to be stationed inside 50 metres – including one pair in the Goal Square – at all Kick Ins and Boundary Throw Ins. The officiating Umpire will not recommence play until all players are in position. Where a team fails to comply at a Boundary Throw In, a Free Kick shall be awarded to the Player of the opposing Team at the point of the stoppage. Where the attacking team fails to comply at a Kick In, a 50-metre Penalty shall be awarded to the defending team.
The rule to be implemented in the VFL and East Coast Second-Tier Competition will be closely monitored prior to consideration as to whether it is implemented in the 2022 Toyota AFL Premiership Season.
Mr Hocking also acknowledged the work of the industry during what has been a unique 2020 season.
"I wish to acknowledge and thank the AFL Game Analysis team, the Competition Committee, Club staff, coaches, players, umpires, AFL Medical Officers and key industry groups including the AFLCA, AFLPA and AFLUA for their work and collaboration throughout this unprecedented season," Mr Hocking said.
The AFL will continue to work with men’s State League competitions and men’s and women’s community football Leagues across the country regarding the implementation of these rule changes.