What’s the deal with 2021 rule changes?

March 4, 2021 BY

Steve Hocking, head of AFL operations. Photo: ERIK ANDERSON/AAP

AFL FOOTBALL operations boss Steve Hocking has explained the reasons why the competition has opted to tinker with some rules for the 2021 season.

Interchange rotations have been slashed from 90 to 75 and there has also been a standing the mark rule introduced which has already prompted plenty of discussion.

When asked what the decrease in rotations will give the game, Hocking said the main idea was to help find a “better balance between attack and defence” through player fatigue.

“Quite clearly where we’ve seen with rotations previously, we’ve continued to go up,” he said on SEN Breakfast.

“One of the things to come out of 2020 was the learnings. There was no adjustment to rotations as the game was shortened.

“All of that extra energy was put further into defence. What we’re trying to do is get a better balance between attack and defence.

“Get a bit more space back into the game. We’re essentially talking about fatigue here. An element of fatigue, all of it working together.

“So it’s not in isolation only going from 90 down to 75. The thing that we’ve recognised is with the system being as developed and as mature as what it is, we haven’t gone from 90 to a much lower number. We’ve just gone down to 75 because it gives the competition the opportunity to adapt to that over time.

“They’re finely tuned athletes and they’ll adapt. We think with the kicking change with the guy standing the mark, the return to 20-minute quarters and this, all of it working together is about finding a better balance between attack and defence.”

Hocking was also adamant that these changes, while perhaps controversial in their infancy, will eventually embed themselves in the game quite naturally just as the 6-6-6 rule has.

“What we’re hoping to see is just more space, and just that balance,” he added.

“You never want to swing it too far one way. That’s our role as custodians of the game, is to make sure the levers we are pulling doesn’t send it too far in the direction you don’t want it to go.

“These are smaller adjustments to the game and I think personally the best decision making of all is when the fans show up to the game and there’s something different about it but they can’t actually pinpoint what it is.”

Speaking specifically about a 50-metre penalty being the sanction for the man on the mark impeding, which many have already labelled as too harsh, Hocking explained why he believes the crime fits the punishment.

Calls for 25-metre penalties have been raised, but Hocking insists the 50-metre penalty is appropriate.

“It was something that was raised,” he said.

“But the actual laws of the game are 50-metre penalties. So it’s really been about implementing that and staying with that. That’s what we’re all used to.

“There has to be a reasonable size penalty. One of the things we’ve got to remember around the introduction of this rule is the delay and the pressure that comes from a guy standing on the mark.

“The 50-metre penalty, if you do move laterally, that’s the transgression and that’s what’s within the laws of the game so that’s what we’re applying.”