AFL footy operations manager Steven Hocking talks with Alan Richardson ahead of last week’s rules trial at St Kilda training. Pic: Michael Klein
AFL footy operations manager Steven Hocking talks with Alan Richardson ahead of last week’s rules trial at St Kilda training. Pic: Michael Klein

AFL to put new rules to the test

UMPIRES will award free kicks against players who don't stick to their designated starting positions at centre bounces during the first official trial of the AFL's experimental rules which will be tested in a VFL match on Saturday.

The AFL will use this week's VFL match between non-finalists Coburg and Werribee to trial two experimental rules adopted as part of the research work of the league's Competition Committee.

The two rules involve a larger goal square for kick outs for the entire game, extending it from nine metres long to 18 metres, along with set-ups of six midfielders, six forwards and six defenders for each centre-square bounce throughout the match.

Coburg coach Leigh Adams ran his team through the new rules at the club's main training session on Tuesday night, with the bottom-placed Lions eager to put their hands up for the trial.

"We trialled AFLX for the AFL a couple of years ago," Coburg general manager Sebastian Spagnuolo said.

"The negative (people) out there would say we are just being guinea pigs, but at the same time the exposure for our club is great."

The VFL clash will feature a bigger goal square. Pic: Michael Klein
The VFL clash will feature a bigger goal square. Pic: Michael Klein

"We are a standalone club on the bottom of the ladder, playing against the big guys week in and week out. So if it means more people coming to the game this week and greater exposure for Coburg and the VFL, then that's a positive.

"We're excited to be part of the first official trial this week against Werribee and we encourage as many people as possible to get to Piranha Park to see how the game plays out with the adjustments in place."

He confirmed a free kick will be paid against any player who doesn't stick to the 6-6-6 set-up for each centre bounce.

There will need to be six forwards in the forward 50m, including one player in the goalsquare; six defenders in their defensive 50m, including one player in the goalsquare; and six midfielders, four of which are in the centre square, and two wingmen lined up on the side of the square.

Playes will be penalised if they don't maintain their positions at the centre bounce. Photo: Getty Images
Playes will be penalised if they don't maintain their positions at the centre bounce. Photo: Getty Images Will Russell/AFL Media

"The goal umpires will be looking at the goal square and the field umpires will be looking at the two 50m lines, plus the centre square," Spagnuolo said.

The AFL initially looked at trialling some of the proposed new rules aimed to ease congestion in league matches involving non-finals teams in the final few rounds, but suffered significant backlash from supporters and past greats of the game.

Hocking said state leagues, including the VFL and the NEAFL, were eager to assist, and he has left the door ajar for further trials if required after Saturday's game between Coburg and Werribee, who sit last and 12th respectively on the VFL ladder.

"The AFL was given a clear message by both the Competition Committee, and each of the clubs we have met with so far, that all parties need to see much more data on how one to two key considerations that we are potentially looking at for AFL games in the future, how they may look when in action for a full game," Hocking said.

"(The Coburg-Werribee game) will provide us with a valuable opportunity to make a much more detailed assessment of how these two trial considerations work over a full game."



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