AFL CLUBS will be given at least a three-week “pre-season” but no practice matches before a resumption of play in 2020.
With competition suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, AFL general manager of football operations Steve Hocking has also told AFL.com.au that a rule allowing extra interchange players would be considered.
“One of the things put forward was a pre-season of three weeks, and no practice matches, to get going again,” Hocking said.
“We are very appreciative of the flexibility and agility shown and demonstrated by the clubs.
“What was put forward was three to four weeks. If there was a postponement that went to later in the year, then the four weeks would kick in, but it is not going to be any later than that.
“In the early phases, it would be three (weeks).
“… the lack of practice matches – people might call that out, but they will be able to do match sim(ulation), and so forth amongst their squads.
“But everyone gets to the start line, all the same.”
The 2020 AFL competition was suspended after round one, when the federal and state governments began enforcing lockdowns and the closures of state borders due to COVID-19.
With the nine matches of round one played, 144 remain to complete the home and away season. In week before the opening round, the AFL Commission announced it had reduced from 22 to 17 the amount of games each club must play in 2020.
The AFL has declared it would not consider a return to matches until June, but it is likely the season suspension will continue long beyond that month.
Hocking said discussions with the football department heads at clubs had also raised the possibility of additional bench players, and even the re-introduction of a substitute player.
“It is certainly one of the things put forward by the key decision-makers,” Hocking said.
“Getting round one away was a real credit to everybody. The decisions before that to shorten the quarters, to keep rotations at 90, and also to lengthen the time post-goals to allow access to trainers and water carriers, all the feedback to that has been exceptional.
“We’ve got a good body of evidence from round one that sets us up to move forward … round one is what we will take forward at this point in time.
“…what this downtime, or pause on the game, has provided us with is an opportunity as an industry to think differently.
“It’s such a different season compared to any other year. The certainty that normally is in place and the rigidity of programming, people prosper off it, thrive off it.
“This season, the team that wins the premiership is going to be an amazing team because there is so much they are going to have to work through.
“The agility and flexibility and open-mindedness to what they are going to face is going to be critical to land the premiership.”
When the AFL suspended the 2020 season at the completion of round one, it said rounds two to four would be retained as per initial fixturing, at least in terms of match-ups if not venues.
But Hocking suggested even that could change.
“There is some uncertainty around that,” Hocking said. “But we haven’t shifted away from that at this stage.”