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The AFL announced several rule changes for 2021. One is that Interchange rotations will be cut from 90 to 75.

In second-tier competitions, teams will be required to reset in zones for boundary throw-ins and kick-ins along with center bounces. The six-six-six set-up was introduced ahead of the 2020 season. For now, the rule is on a trial basis but could be introduced for the senior competition in 2022.

The league also tweaked several other rules, with players standing the mark (where an opponent catches the ball) to concede a 50-meter (55 yards) penalty for any lateral movement before "play on" is called. Players on the mark at kick-ins will also have to move five meters (appx 3 yards) further back which will give the kicking player more time and space to play on.

Head of football Steve Hocking said the changes were required to achieve "a better balance between attack and defense while encouraging more open ball movement". Hocking would not commit to how much he expected the changes to impact scoring although he acknowledged it was clearly the intent of the changes and said player welfare was front of mind when the AFL decided to reduce the interchange numbers, "What we have aimed to do is create more time and space in the game. A lot of defensive layers have crept in ... ".

The radical trial of more zones in the second-tier competition is another step in the effort to "de-clutter" the game. The AFL will review the impact of the shift during 2021 before making a decision on the rule for 2022. The AFL said in a statement that the "officiating umpire will not recommence play until all players are in position. Where a team fails to comply at a boundary throw-in, a free kick shall be awarded to the player of the opposing team at the point of the stoppage. Where the attacking team fails to comply at a kick in, a 50-meter penalty shall be awarded to the defending team." It is as yet unknown how long players will have to get back in position, but Hocking said the rule would shift player habits, making them more likely to spread across the ground rather than migrating towards the ball, causing congestion.

Another announcement by the AFL concerned the size of playing lists. It was announced that club lists will be the following: 36 to 38 senior players, 4-6 Category A rookies and two Category B rookies. Rookie listed players will be allowed to play senior football without having to be elevated to the senior list. So many clubs have had to make hard calls on players, with some clubs even demoting senior players to rookie lists. Although there have already been some trades and free agent signings, the free agency period ran November 25 through November 29 with the first list lodgment due November 25 ahead of the free agency period. Clubs can also nominate their father/son requests and Academy players. List lodgment is the process whereby all AFL clubs must submit their current playing lists to the AFL. The second list lodgment is submitted on November 30. At the same time, out of contract players can nominate for the draft and clubs can still delist senior players. There is then another free agency period December 2-3 for delisted free agents and delisted rookies. The father/son bids are also submitted to the league.

Sources: afl.com.au, theage.com.au

Article last changed on Wednesday, January 06, 2021 - 5:59 PM EST


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