FOUR-time premiership coach Leigh Matthews doesn't expect coaching cuts to impact the AFL product, believing the "genie's out of the bottle" for how the game will be played.
Significant coaching job losses as a result of COVID-19 have seen some senior coaches become concerned about the effect on the game, with Giants coach Leon Cameron warning against "diluting" the spectacle with fewer resources.
But Matthews, who steered Collingwood to its breakthrough 1990 flag before guiding Brisbane to their historic three-peat between 2001-03, said coaches would adapt to the workload to meet the demands of their players.
"I don't think it will impact the game at all," Matthews said.
"It will be challenging. It depends on your club, obviously, but say your average is 15 people in your coaching staff and you end up with 10, clearly you're trying to do the same. There's that old saying: you can't unlearn what you already know.
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"So nothing will change in the way they want the game to be played but with maybe [fewer] coaches there'll be more work for each individual."
But the master coach and current Lions director said he hoped the influence of coaches could be wound back to ensure instinct remains a key facet of the code.
While watching last week's NFL Super Bowl, Matthews tweeted that he hoped the "increasing coach control" in the AFL isn't allowed to "ruin" the instinctive nature of the game but he lamented that it had already taken a hold.
The stop/start nature of Gridiron allows it to be the ultimate coach controlled game but still needs great players to successfully execute the plays , personally I hope the increasing coach control in the AFL is not allowed to ruin the chaotic and instinctive nature of our game— Leigh Matthews (@LeighRMatthews) February 8, 2021
"[The NFL] is an ultimate coach pre-planned game, even though maybe the quarterback has a little bit of initiative. Mostly players are doing what they're told to do and having to execute the play," he said.
"Certainly over my lifetime in coaching, over 35 years, [in the AFL] it's gone from coaches giving guidelines and principles to now coaching groups giving much more pre-planned structures. To be honest, I hate that evolution.
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"I love the fact that in Australian Rules there's no offside rule, no line of scrimmage. It's meant to be a chaotic, instinctive sort of game with players all over the place. That's the nature of it but the coaching is about structuring it more."
The AFL is also pushing to see more instinctive acts in games, and has introduced its new man on the mark rule in a bid to allow 'greater flow' of ball movement in games.
This year, the League will also trial forcing three players from each team to return to inside-50 zones for each throw-in and kick-in at VFL level. There is potential to add that rule to the AFL in coming seasons and Australian Football Hall of Fame Legend Matthews supports the concept.
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"The ultimate thing is to make players spread out over the field and the mechanism to do that is still yet to be uncovered, although we know there's an experimentation that's going to take place in the VFL to see if that's feasible," he said.