December 8, 2021

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AFL warns players they face ‘trouble’ over head knocks

AFL general manager of football Brad Scott has warned players that next season they will be “in trouble” if they are late to contests and make contact with opponents’ heads.

Scott has confirmed there will be no “material” rule changes in 2022, as he settles into his new role with the AFL.

However, the former North Melbourne coach and Brisbane premiership defender did forecast tweaks to some existing rule interpretations, with player safety front of mind.

A particular focus will be on head knocks, with contests to be heavily scrutinised by the league and its match review officer amid an intensifying focus on concussion and its long-term effects.

Head contact will not necessarily lead to harsher penalties next year, but the AFL will attempt to clarify how it expects players to approach contests.

“What was acceptable eight-plus years ago is not acceptable in 2021 and beyond,” Scott said after Tuesday’s meeting of the AFL Competition Committee.

“There was unanimous agreement from the committee that attitudes, particularly as [they] relate to concussive-type head trauma, have changed and have shifted.”

Last season, there was widespread confusion and debate when Adelaide’s David Mackay was sent to the tribunal over a collision that left St Kilda player Hunter Clark with a broken jaw.

Two players laying on the ground after they collided during an afl matchTwo players laying on the ground after they collided during an afl match
Hunter Clark, centre, and David Mackay, right, were involved in a sickening collision in round 13.(AAP: Darren England)

Mackay was initially charged with “unreasonable” rough conduct, but was found not guilty by the tribunal.

Scott has gone through eight years of footage and said the Mackay-Clark collision was the closest he could find to “simultaneous, accidental contact”.

“In most instances, there is a player who is late to that contest,” he said.

“There’s broad acceptance of that amongst the clubs.”

Scott’s mantra in his role is “clarity and consolidation” of the game’s rules.

The controversial “stand” rule will remain in place, while Scott will seek to crack down on players wasting time by delaying the return of the ball to opponents or umpires.

“We think they’re pretty simple things but there has been a bit of creep in those areas over time,” Scott said.

“I can’t stress enough, we’ve got to make it clear to the clubs and players, and it’s really important that we also make it clear to fans.

“A lot of the frustrations, I think, come from when fans are confused as to what the rules are, so we’ve got a job to do there.”


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