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AFLPA defends proposed rule changes

Cam Reddin

The AFL Players Association has defended a string of rule changes proposed by the game’s Competition Committee, declaring “there is enough evidence” to justify the overhaul.

On Thursday, the AFL’s Competition Committee unveiled a raft of recommendations for rule changes to begin next season, which have been widely criticised by fans and players alike.

AFLPA General Manager Brett Murphy has told Macquarie Sports Radio the Committee’s primary goal is to reduce congestion. It hopes extending the goal-square to 18 metres, combined with mandated starting positions at the centre bounce which would see six players in the forward 50, six in the centre and six in the back 50, will reduce congestion in general play.

“When you look at the evidence, it’s hard to see how they’re not going to help. But they’re certainly not going to hinder,” Murphy told Macquarie Sports Radio‘s Cam Reddin.

“There is a body of evidence to show they will benefit the game,” he said.

AFL football operations boss Steve Hocking pointed to three VFL trial matches incorporating these rules, where scoring increased by 15 per cent and tackling went down by 14 per cent.

Murphy said other trials have also shown the changes effectively reduce congestion, and there was no need for a season-long trial before implementing the changes at AFL level.

“I do think these steps will help [reduce congestion],” he said.

Unlike with the substitute rule, introduced in 2011 and scrapped in 2015, Murphy is confident the AFL’s research is sufficient enough to justify fast-tracking the rules into place for next season.

“That was brought in without trial, without the extensive consultation the AFL has done here. This time around, the AFL has left no stone unturned,” he said.

Murphy says he can understand why fans may be “cautious” about the changes, but they must be willing to adapt.

“We’ve grown up with the goal square at a particular size, we’ve grown up with players being able to start around the centre square. But change has occurred in the past. There was no square to begin with. That was brought in in the ’60s and has helped the game dramatically,” Murphy said.

Other recommendations include changes to the rules governing runners as well as various other tweaks to the interpretation of existing rules.

Murphy rejected the suggestion the 6-6-6 rule could be used as a stepping stone towards greater zoning restrictions down the track.

“That hasn’t been discussed at all. The 6-6-6 is purely a way to give players in the middle of the ground that little bit of extra time to clear the ball from the centre,” he said.

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