SOUTH-WEST footy fans are going to notice sweeping changes with seven new rules to be introduced when the season starts in two weeks.
All but two of the nine new rule interpretations adopted by the AFL will be implemented into south-west leagues.
AFL Western District senior operations manager Brad Pole confirmed the traditional centre bounce (six-six-six) and the water carrier-runner rules wouldn't feature in the new changes set to effect the Hampden, Warrnambool and District, South West and Mininera leagues in 2019.
The kick-in, marks/free kicks deep inside defensive 50, hands in the back, post-siren kicking for goal, 50-metre penalty, ruck contest prior opportunity and umpire contact at centre bounce rules will be enforced by umpires.
Post siren, players will be allowed to snap the ball when having a shot at goal.— AFL.com.au (@AFLcomau) October 11, 2018
AFL General Manager Football Operations Steve Hocking explains to @barrettdamian.
Watch all the new rules and interpretations for next season here: https://t.co/JBjVWtCGaEpic.twitter.com/UyRvMRRyr4
Pole said AFL Victoria was granted an exception to the traditional bounce law, where teams are meant to have six players start in the three sections of the field at centre bounces, resulting in no league in the state enforcing the law.
The water carrier and runner rule, which prevents the two from entering the field until a goal is scored and requires them to leave the field of play before the centre bounce, was an optional rule for country leagues.
Pole said the region's leagues did not introduce those rules.
The AFL Commission has approved a package of rule changes to be implemented in the 2019 Toyota AFL Premiership Season.— AFL (@AFL) October 11, 2018
AFL General Manager Football Operations Steve Hocking explains changes to kick-ins after a behind.
Details on all changes: https://t.co/vnrcm6O2n4pic.twitter.com/cRJxnOSXjp
The AFL unveiled the changes and interpretations on October 11 last year with the goal of producing more free-flowing, instinctive football and more one-on-one contests across the sport's multiple levels.
The new defensive-50 rule means players have more space to take their kick after marking or receiving a free kick deep inside their own defence, while the new 50-metre penalty interpretation gives them the freedom to play-on after receiving a 50-metre penalty.
Players are now also allowed to take around-the-body set shots after the siren.
The hands-in-the-back at marking contests and prior opportunity at ruck contests interpretations have been relaxed. Ruckmen are now allowed to take possession of the ball at a stoppage.
Also under the changes, the man on the mark at kick-ins will be positioned an extra five metres back to give players more space to kick or play on.
They also no longer need to kick the ball to themselves to play on from the goal square.
"We have listened to our fans, players, coaches, umpires and clubs. The rule changes and interpretations protect and respect the traditions of Australian Football while progressing our game," AFL football operations manager Steve Hocking said.
"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."
Kick-ins, penalties to shake up the region
WARRNAMBOOL coach Matt O'Brien and Allansford mentor Ben Price agree that two rules are set to have a significant impact on how football is played in the south-west.
The second-year mentors both believe the 50-metre and kick-in changes will be the most highly discussed topic throughout the region as the rules take affect in leagues across the state this season.
O'Brien and Price came to the same conclusion that the new kick-in rule, which pushes the man on the mark 10 metres back and allows the kicker to play-on without kicking to themselves, would force teams to alter the way they structure.
"The rule will reduce the time teams have to set up and presents more opportunity for teams to clear a zone if the other was wanting to set that up," O'Brien said.
"I think that kick-out rule will create some bigger scores for the stronger teams as it will make it quicker for them to get it out of their back lines."
Price said the rule gave players more freedom when choosing how they wanted to use the football.
"It opens a whole new world of tactics and allows the players to play with their natural instincts," the Cats coach said.
"They can get the footy in their hands and just have the chance to do what comes naturally to them."
The pair also shared their concern for the new 50-metre penalty rule.
The new interpretation allows players to play-on as the penalty is measured but if the infringing player enters the 10-metre exclusion zone when the opposition plays on it could result in a 100-metre penalty.
O'Brien said the rule should have been left out for another season.
"It's putting umpires under undue extra pressure. Giving away a 100-metre penalty is significant and it really is putting too much on the umpires at this stage," he said.
"I think they should have let that go this year and see how it played out in the AFL instead of bringing it in at the same time and having us trying to work it out too."
Price said he was instructing his players to steer clear of the "coach-killer" penalties.
"I have brought it up to my players that we don't want to be giving them away," he said. "It (the 50 and 100-metre penalty) is a coach-killer and is pretty harsh and crazy. It's hard for the umpires to interpret sometimes if it goes wrong too. But the boys are really drilled in that they aren't acceptable."
Apart from those two rules, the pair were in favour of a majority of the rules which will be enforced this year.
"Hopefully it will be a lot better for people to watch and we can try to create more of a spectacle of our games, even if it's a casual sport for us," Price said.
"It will create more faster-flowing and a better style of footy. It's exciting to try new the rules and see the sport evolving."
O'Brien's Blues will get a chance to test out the new rules on Saturday, while Price's men have already trialled them in a practice match against Heywood a few weeks ago.
Time the best indicator says Umpire coach
WARRNAMBOOL and District Football Umpires Association field umpire coach Mick Lowther believes understanding is key to new rules having a positive impact in the region's leagues.
The first-year mentor said it was hard to predict the impact the changes would have on south-west football.
"Until we see them in operation down here we don’t know. There are going to be different scenarios coming up and we can only discuss and rectify them once we have seen them," he said.
"It's all new to us as it is to the players and the coaches so we have work it all out together."
Lowther said the new 50-metre interpretation would have the most impact on how the sport would be played in the south-west.
Under the new rule, which is one of seven to be enforced this season, the player must be allowed to advance the mark by 50m without the infringing player delaying the game. They also have the ability to play-on while the penalty is being measured.
Lowther said it made the game quicker but if the infringing team got within the 10-metre exclusion zone another 50-metre penalty could be called by the umpire, which would result in a 100-metre penalty scenario.
He also believes players will not make full use of their 50-metre penalty because they are allowed to play-on straight away and might not sum up their options properly.
The long-serving umpire was also in favour of the new kick-in rule.
Pair's opinions split on new rule changes
A HAMPDEN league ruckman and a Warrnambool and District premiership defender have split opinions on the impact the new rule changes could have on the state of football in the region.
Port Fairy's Sandy Robinson was supportive of the introduction of the seven new rules, while Nirranda's Luke Weel felt the sport's laws didn't need to be altered.
"I think it (the AFL) has its merit but they don't need to change the game too much as the way it is is pretty decent," Weel said.
"Those tweaks could be good but teams will try and congest it up and sort out new game plans around these new rules."
Robinson said the new interpretations would take the sport in a positive direction.
"The aim across the game is to open it up and obviously that is what they are trying to do," the 31-year-old said.
"It's a good thing they aren't bringing it (the six-six-six rule) in as it could cause confusion and mean more officials and country footy is already stressed.
"I think the balance isn't too bad with the new rules we have adopted. We want fans and spectators to be at our game.
"But it's got to work both ways and who knows it might make the game more enjoyable for everyone than it already is."
Weel said he and fellow Nirranda designated kicker Brayden Harkness would not change too much about their approach to kick-ins with the new rule in place.
"I feel we will play on real fast, like we did last season, if it's scored and really just take those extra few metres and try to take on the full-back," the 27-year-old said.
"I can't see it effecting us too much as we already played on a bit last season."
Robinson said the relaxed prior opportunity rule for ruckmen, which allows the player to take the ball out of the ruck without being pinned for holding the ball, would change the tactics at stoppages around the ground.
"If they are a big ruck they could hold ground and take possession or a mobile ruck, like myself, can jump and take it in the air," he said.
He also said ruckmen could start to be more attacking at forward or defensive 50 stoppages.
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