THE AFL has revealed its "emerging view" that guidelines around head-high bumps need to be tightened further to penalise players who are late to a contest, regardless of their intent to contest the ball.  

Interpretations for head-high bumps and all head-high contact was one of two main items discussed at Tuesday's competition committee meeting, where it was confirmed there would be no "material rule changes" for the 2022 season. 

The League's new general manager of football Brad Scott confirmed there would likely be changes to umpire and match review interpretations, however, particularly related to head-high contact.

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SCOTT WARNING: Crackdown coming on time-wasters, high contact

Football manager Brad Scott flags tweaks after some interpretations get 'away from the rule'

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"Our intention was to show that what was acceptable eight-plus years ago is not acceptable in 2022 and beyond," Scott said on Tuesday.

"It's fair to say there was unanimous agreement from the committee that attitudes, particularly as it results to concussive-type head trauma, have changed.  

"The clear message we're giving to clubs and players is that if you contest the ball and you're late and you hit the opposition player in the head with a bump, you're going to be in trouble."

 The AFL tightened its 'contesting the ball' exception in relation to high bumps ahead of the 2021 season.

The previous requirement that the player was "contesting the ball and did not have a realistic alternative way to contest the ball" was tightened slightly to "contesting the ball and it was reasonable for the player to contest the ball in that way".  

Scott said there was broad acceptance among clubs now that players should be penalised for high contact if they were late to a contest, regardless of whether they were contesting the ball.  

Geelong's Tom Hawkins collides with Greater Western Sydney's Lachie Whitfield during the semi-final on September 3, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

He said concussion research was playing a "really important role" in the League's view.

"We did look at a couple of incidents that involved two players contesting the ball and making contact simultaneously, but fortunately those are few and far between," the former North Melbourne coach said.  

 "In most instances there is a player who is late in that contest, and if you're late and hit a player in the head you're going to be in trouble."

The AFL will finish its club consultations when it speaks to Adelaide before another round of meetings with club bosses in January when it will clarify its position on any interpretation changes.  

He confirmed the stand rule would remain in 2022, albeit with some potential "tweaks around the edges".

"We're happy with what we saw, but we're conscious that the data set we've got, we'd like a bigger sample size and we'd like to have another look at it," Scott said.   

"We think players and coaches adjusted throughout the year and we'd like another period to look at it to see whether it's going to be a permanent fixture going forward.  

"The theme of consolidation for 2022 is to make sure that whatever coaching tactics and club tactics evolve, we can have another look at it and make an informed decision at the end of the year."

Melbourne's Ed Langdon gestures as he stands on the mark during round 21, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Time-delaying tactics from players was discussed by the committee, with Scott declaring umpires will be stricter in that area next season.  

He said umpires would take a dim view of players who don't have the ball impeding or blocking the opposition from picking it up after the tactic crept more prominently into the game last season.    

Scott said whatever interpretation changes were implemented needed to communicated clearly with all stakeholders, including fans.  

"A lot of the frustrations I think watching footy comes when fans are confused as to what the rules are. We've got a job there to make them clear," he said.

Scott confirmed the AFL wanted Match Review Officer and 1990 Collingwood premiership player Michael Christian to hold the important role again next season.


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