AFL introduces Laws of the Game changes for '09 season

Tuesday, December 16 2008 @ 09:00 am ACDT

Contributed by: Troy Thompson

The AFL has announced Laws of the Game changes for season 2009. While the rules will immediately affect the AFL season (and NAB Cup competition), it is as always up to bodies around the world on whether they implement these changes or ignore them.

AFL Football Operations Manager Adrian Anderson, Chairman of the Laws of the Game Committee, said the Commission had approved the following at its monthly meeting in Melbourne today:

1) Four minor rule changes for the 2009 Toyota AFL Premiership Season;

2) Two new interpretations for the 2009 Toyota AFL Premiership Season;

3) One change to the AFL regulations for the 2009 Toyota AFL Premiership Season;

4) Introduction of three 2009 NAB Cup / NAB Challenge rules that may be introduced for the 2009 Toyota AFL Premiership Season;

5) A revision of the rules used in the 2008 NAB Cup, which has seen some rules retained and others discarded to bring the NAB Cup more in line with the Toyota AFL Premiership Season. Mr Anderson said the quality of football that had been played over the 2007 and 2008 seasons had been outstanding, assisted by changes made in recent seasons to make the game more continuous and free flowing.

The details on each of the changes are as follows:

1. Minor rule changes for the 2009 Toyota AFL Premiership Season

Mr Anderson said the minor rule changes that would automatically come into effect for the 2009 Toyota AFL Premiership Season included:

a) Recall badly offline bounces: An umpire will recall a field or centre bounce when the bounce does not allow for the ball to be contested by both teams.

b) Free kick for misconduct: A free kick can now be paid for incidents of misconduct such as interfering with an injured player. Previously misconduct was the only offence which was reportable but for which a free kick could not be paid.

c) Restart of play following a stretcher: If one team has possession when play is stopped for a stretcher, that same team will retain possession when play is re-started.

d) 50m penalty awarded after all clear is given but before play has re-started: A free kick to the defending team during this time will be taken where infringement occurred or 50m from the kick-off line. This change makes the rules consistent with those already in place for when a free kick is given away after a mark or free kick has been awarded.

2. New interpretations for the 2009 Toyota AFL Premiership Season

The two new interpretations that will automatically come into effect for the 2009 Toyota AFL Premiership Season are as follows:

- Scoring line to be drawn so the back of the line is equal with the back of the padding rather than being through the centre of the posts (to ensure goal umpires are using a consistent frame of reference regardless of their line of sight);

- If the field umpire impedes a player when in the act of setting the mark for a shot on goal, the field umpire will stop play and reset the mark so no player is disadvantaged in this situation.

3. Change to AFL Regulations for the 2009 Toyota AFL Premiership Season

The penalty for a breach of the interchange regulations has been modified to be simpler and more proportionate. The penalty for an interchange breach will now be a free kick plus 50 metre penalty from wherever play is stopped. Previously the ball was taken to the centre of the ground and then a 50 metre penalty was awarded.

In addition to these changes, four boundary umpires will now be used on a permanent basis from the 2009 NAB Cup onwards following a successful trial from Round 21 through to the Grand Final in the 2008 Toyota AFL Premiership Season.

4. NAB Cup / NAB Challenge rules for potential introduction in 2009 Toyota AFL Premiership Season

a) A free kick will now be awarded for any deliberate rushed behind

Mr Anderson explained that clubs had raised the issue of deliberate rushed behinds as part of the consultation process and a number of options had been discussed.

“The clear majority of clubs and coaches thought that deliberate rushed behinds are having a negative impact on the game and support the trial of a rule to discourage the tactic.

“The strong feedback the AFL received after the Grand Final was that clubs and coaches would deliberately rush more and more behinds if the rule was not changed.

He said two key statistics helped explain why the AFL did not select the option of disallowing the player who rushes the ball from kicking it in, or disallowing the kick in until the flags were waved. These two statistics are:

1) less than a quarter of kick-ins following a deliberate rushed behind are taken before the flags are waved; and

2) only 45 per cent of deliberately rushed behinds are kicked in by the player who rushes the behind.

“The options of a bounce 25m out from goal or a boundary throw-in from the behind post were carefully considered, but not selected because they create extra stoppages and time delays which increase the opportunity for teams to flood.

The option of a free kick for a deliberate rushed behind was adopted because it is the simplest option, the greatest deterrent, and is most consistent with the current Laws of the Game.

“A free kick is already paid for deliberately putting the ball out of play in all other areas around the ground and this option allows for similar criteria to be used in the case of deliberate rushed behinds.”

The benefit of the doubt will be given to a defender who is under direct pressure in a contest, or whose primary goal is to spoil or touch the ball before it goes through for a goal. Examples of what constitutes a deliberate rushed behind will be included on the Laws of the Game DVD to be released by the AFL umpiring department early in 2009.

b) Umpires to award a 50 metre penalty in addition to a free kick for players who tackle or hold an opponent after the opponent has disposed of the football, for the purpose of preventing them from taking part in the next act of play or being able to run on to the next contest

Mr Anderson said the free after disposal trial was in response to an emerging trend where players were being unfairly hindered after being involved in an act of play.

“We have seen that players are prepared to give away a free kick by putting an opposition player down after disposing of the ball to prevent them from running onto the next contest. Currently only a free kick is awarded and this can be an insufficient deterrent,” he said.

c) Continue the trial of the no-go zone behind umpires at centre bounces

The Centre bounce no-go zone resulted in a decrease in player-umpire contact when used in the 2008 NAB Cup and so the no-go zone will be trialled again to monitor its impact on the incidence of contact with umpires at centre bounces.

“Each of these three trial rules will be evaluated following the NAB Cup and NAB Challenge to determine whether it is appropriate for them to be introduced for the 2009 Toyota AFL Premiership Season,” Mr Anderson said.

5. Other NAB Cup rules

Feedback from the clubs and coaches indicated they would like to see the rules of the NAB Cup brought more in line with the rules of the Toyota AFL Premiership Season to assist with player preparation.

In light of this feedback, Mr Anderson said the following alterations had been made to the rules that were part of the 2008 NAB Cup:

a) Interchange system - remove the restriction on the number of interchanges permitted that was used in the 2008 NAB Cup and introduce a system of two substitute players in addition to six standard interchange players;

b) Remove the rule allowing play on when ball hits goal or behind post; and

c) Remove the ball being thrown back into play 10m in from boundary line.

The rules used in the 2008 NAB Cup to be retained for the 2009 NAB Cup are;

a) No marks for backward kicks in the defensive half of the ground;

b) Nine points for a goal from outside 50m;

c) Ball to be thrown up around the ground; and

d) Distance for a kick to be awarded a mark retained at 20m.

The above rules will also be used in 2009 NAB Challenge matches except for (b), nine points for a goal from outside 50m.

Mr Anderson said he wished to thank the clubs, coaches, players, states and fans for their input into the 2008 process along with all members of the Laws Committee for their work over the course of the year. He also commended the work of former Carlton champion Andrew McKay, who was appointed to the new role of Game Analysis Manager in 2008. McKay serves as an internal resource to monitor and analyse trends in the game, make recommendations for research and drive the consultation process with the clubs on Laws-related matters.

The Laws Committee consists of Adrian Anderson (Chairman), Kevin Bartlett, Luke Darcy, Brendon Gale, Andrew McKay, Matthew Pavlich, Rowan Sawers, Michael Sexton and Andrew McKay.

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