The AFL has implemented a number of rule changes for the 2021 Toyota AFL Premiership season, including alterations to interchanges and manning of the marks.
Clubs will be restricted to 75 interchanges per match, down from the 90 allowed in 2020.
The 2021 season will also see an amendment for players standing on the mark, with 50-metre penalties to be imposed on players who move - outside a one metre "level of tolerance" - laterally off the mark before 'play on' has been called.
Players returning the ball to play after an opposition behind will be given a 15-metre space, an increase of five metres, between them and the opponent standing the mark.
“The evolution of the game has seen an increase in defensive structures and these changes combined are designed to provide a better balance between attack and defence while encouraging more open ball movement,” the AFL’s General Manager of Football Operations, Steve Hocking said.
“We have some of the most skilful athletes in the world, and the three changes are designed to reduce the defensive capability of teams and open up the game, providing an opportunity for players to have more freedom to play on instinct and show off their natural flair.
“Our game is in good shape but we all want more of what makes our game great and while there are always great moments of brilliance in the AFL, these changes aim to increase those moments and provide more opportunities for players to showcase their talents and ultimately give supporters more of what they love.
In 2021, quarter length is expected to return to 20 minutes plus time-on, up from 16 minutes plus time-on in 2020, but the AFL is yet to formally announce that change.
Decisions on the length of the season and the style of fixturing are also to be determined, though clubs have been told there will be a return in 2021 to a minimum 22 matches per club.
The AFL will also trial a rule in the VFL and East Coast second-tier competition next season, with a view to potentially implementing it into the 2022 Toyota AFL Premiership Season.
This will see a minimum of three players from each team stationed inside 50 – including one pair in the goal-square – at all kick ins and boundary throw ins.
Rule changes to be implemented in the 2021 Toyota AFL Premiership Season…
1) A maximum of 75 total player interchanges per match
Rotations will decrease from 90 per match in 2020 to 75 per match in 2021. Each team will continue to be permitted four interchange players.
2) Player Standing The Mark
The defending Player will only be permitted minimal lateral movement on The Mark. If the defending player moves off The Mark in any direction prior to “Play On” being called, a 50-metre penalty will apply. The defensive team is unable to substitute the Player on The Mark.
3) Location of The Mark at Kick Ins
The Mark shall be set at 15 metres from the centre of the Kick-Off Line towards the centre of the ground at Kick Ins. This was previously set at 10 metres.
Rule change to be implemented in the 2021 VFL and East Coast Second-Tier Competition…
1) Three players to be stationed inside 50 metres at each stoppage
A minimum of three Players from each team to be stationed inside 50 metres – including one pair in the Goal Square – at all Kick Ins and Boundary Throw Ins. 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-metre Penalty shall be awarded to the defending team.