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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

The AFL is trying out several new rules in the 2011 preseason competition, which has also been altered in format. Trial rules which are received favorably could be introduced into the season proper. The new rules this year are:

- a player awarded a 50 meter (55 yards) penalty which places him inside the 50 meter area can choose to kick from outside the 50 meters for a nine-point goal or move in for a six-point goal. In previous preseasons, a player outside 50 meters who received a 50 meter penalty could take his kick for goal from inside 50 and still be awarded a nine-point goal due to being outside the 50 meters prior to the infringement. The League felt that allowing a player a nine-point goal after opting to take his kick inside 50 meters detracted from the achievement and excitement of an actual 50-meter goal.

- the official scorekeeper can use technology to assist with scoring decisions. This would occur if video replay is immediately available to prevent delays in the game. The goal umpire can consult with the official scorekeeper.

- boundary umpires will be empowered to award free kicks for holding and high contact at stoppages.

- a free kick will be awarded against any player who drags or holds the ball under an opponent.

- a free kick for out of bounds will be paid against the last player who touches the ball before it crosses the line. A free will not be paid if it cannot be determined who last touched the ball before going out of bounds or if the ball goes out of bounds as the result of a spoil or smother by an opponent. This rule will be used only in the first round of the NAB Cup when all 18 teams are involved.

The preseason schedule includes the Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney. This year, the teams will be divided into three pools of six teams each. The opening round will see three games played in three hours with each game comprising two 20-minute halves.

Each club will play two games against the other two sides they are matched against. The six winners of each division will then proceed to the second round, along with the two other sides with the best records. This will allow the traditional set-up of eight teams with the winners progressing to the semi-finals and then the Grand Final. As usual, the losers will be dispatched to various regions for practice games.

In 2011, the AFL will divide the 18 teams into six divisions of three clubs each, with each club to play two matches in their pool against the other two sides they are matched with. These matches in the first week will be shortened games, comprising two 20-minute halves and would allow for three games to be played in a three-hour block.

The Round One groupings are:

Sydney, Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney in the Blacktown area of Sydney

Adelaide, Port Adelaide and Melbourne at AAMI Stadium, Collingwood, Carlton and Richmond at Etihad Stadium and West Coast, Fremantle and Hawthorn at Patersons Stadium.

These games will be played February 11-13.

Essendon, Brisbane and St Kilda at Etihad Stadium, February 18.

Geelong Cats, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs at Skilled Stadium, February 20.

Source: Patrick Keane, AFL Media Releas

Article last changed on Sunday, February 27, 2011 - 7:15 PM EST

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