AFL General Manager of Football Operations, Mark Evans, today advised clubs that the AFL Commission had considered a number of matters around the Laws of the Game for the 2017 Toyota AFL Premiership Season and approved the following:

  • Only nominated ruckmen will be able to compete at a contest for a throw-in or ball-up, with players no longer permitted to contest a ruck contest as a third man up
  • There will be a stricter interpretation of Deliberate Rushed Behinds
  • The interpretation of where a player draws high contact will be simplified

Mr Evans said the AFL’s Football Department’s recommendations to the Commission had been guided by widespread industry consultation with Clubs, the AFLPA, AFL Coaches Association, AFL Medical Officers, key industry groups and fan research, along with a recent club meeting with coaches to discuss the Laws.

“These Law changes and amendments are in keeping with the AFL’s strong stance to protect players against injury and to promote exciting football in all parts of the ground,” Mr Evans said.

“Eliminating the third man up at ruck contests will support the recruitment of tall players and ensure our game continues to be played at the elite level by players of various sizes and differing abilities.

"A stricter interpretation of what constitutes a Deliberate Rushed Behind is designed to keep the ball in play and promote contested football, which is the preference of our fans.

“Umpires will be instructed that whether a tackle is reasonable should always be their first assessment when adjudicating high contact.”

Mr Evans said further detail on each point was as follows:

Third Man Up:

After analysis of third-man up contests over the past two seasons, it was determined there was no discernible advantage to the game when this tactic was used.

The Law change also supports the recruitment of tall players with a specific skill set, with injury to ruckmen another factor considered by the Commission.

The removal of the third man up is expected to make a ruck contest easier to adjudicate.

Deliberate Rushed Behinds:

Under the amended rule a field umpire shall give consideration to:

  • Whether the player had prior opportunity to dispose of the ball;
  • The distance of the player from the Goal or Behind Line;
  • The degree of pressure being applied to the player.

Mr Evans said the AFL Umpiring Department would work closely with clubs during the pre-season to establish clearer interpretations of the points above.

High Tackle - Players Drawing High Contact:

The first assessment for the umpire will continue to be whether the tackle was applied in an appropriate manner.

Umpires will be asked to call play on when a tackle is assessed as reasonable (no swinging arm or contact being incidental) and the player with the ball is responsible for the high contact.

It is important to note that at all times the ball carrier retains protection against high or indiscriminate tackling.

Other matters considered

The AFL has advised clubs on a minor amendment to the wording of Law 15.6 – Deliberate Out of Bounds – to better describe the stricter assessment implemented in 2016.

Clarification on the interpretation of the ‘protected area’ rule was also provided with a focus to be placed on whether players enter the protected area in a manner which impacts or could impact the kicker, particularly once the kicker has established a set position.

The AFL Laws of the Game Committee comprises: Mark Evans (Chairman), Brett Burton, Wayne Campbell, Michael Christian, Neil Craig, Chris Fagan, Tom Harley, Chris Judd, Hayden Kennedy, Leigh Matthews and Jack Riewoldt.

Separately, the operations of the Match Review Panel will have a number of changes for 2017:

  • Apply a stricter interpretation of impact for Intentional Strikes to the Body where the force of the strike warrants a suspension;
  • Where a jumper punch / strike to the head has minimal impact, provide an ability for the MRP to impose a Fixed Financial Sanction as per Attempt to Strike;
  • Provide the ability for the MRP to recommend a sanction to Clubs for large Melees or multiple breaches in a single season;
  • Merge the currently independent records for Engaging in a Melee and Wrestling charges given their similarity, to further disincentivise repeat offenders.