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More flow, less clutter: who will benefit from new AFL rules

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To quote Bob Dylan, The times they are a changin’. Footy will have a new look this year.

The league has unveiled a package of rule and interpretation changes after almost a year’s consultation and analysis.

“We have listened to our fans, players, coaches, umpires and clubs," said AFL football operations chief Steven Hocking, who already has a strong reputation as a change agent.

“The rule changes and interpretations protect and respect the traditions of Australian football while progressing our game.

“We all want more of what makes our game great – free-flowing passages of play, one-on-one contests, and players having space to play on instinct.

“These changes are about giving players the best chance to play the best game, and giving the fans more of what they love."

Fans are beginning to glimpse the changes in pre-season, intra-club games and practice matches, although the proof of the changes’ exact impacts probably won’t be apparent until the season proper.

For the moment, we are left to wonder what might happen.

So what are the new rules and what difference do insiders think they'll make?

Our take on the new rule

The 6-6-6 rule is probably the most dramatic of the changes. It means players are placed into zones at the start of every quarter and every goal. Notwithstanding the rules preventing more than four players from starting in the second square, one of the most distinctive elements of football has been that players are allowed to roam the field, in contrast to other codes.

It must be stressed that once the ball has been bounced, players can run around freely so there is nothing stopping teams from putting a player behind the ball as soon as they are allowed to.

The rationale behind the rule is to open up forward lines, and maximise the chances of old-fashioned one-on-one battles inside forward 50.

One AFL club’s assistant coach suggested that scores from centre bounces would increase, and that the rule would make it harder to defend.

Who could benefit?

This should, in theory, benefit players who are strong contested marks in one-on-ones. St Kilda’s Paddy McCartin looms as the type of forward who could be helped by the rule as he is more likely to be afforded space.


© Brisbane Times