It appears yet another rule change will be introduced to the Australian Football League Women’s competition when the AFL Commission meets next week.
According to reports by News Corp outlets, the Commission will rubber stamp a ‘last disposal out-of-bounds’ rule that will hand a free kick from the boundary line to the opposition of the team that had directly kicked or handballed the footy out-of-bounds last.
It’s claimed the rule will only be in effect on the wings, between the two 50 metre arcs.
The rule was previously trialled during the second round of the AFL Women’s exhibition matches in 2016, while a variation of the proposed rule has been implemented in the SANFL Men’s competition, where it has a split opinion amongst coaches.
Speaking in favour of the rule earlier this year, Former Geelong footballer and then South Adelaide men’s coach Garry Hocking spoke in favour of the rule earlier this year.
“You get less stoppages and you get more scoring, and I think that’s what people want to go see – they want to see goals kicked and the play continue,” Hocking said.
Arguing against the rule was former Brisbane Bears footballer and then West Adelaide men’s coach, Mark Mickan.
“It makes the game look too much like soccer or basketball,” Mickan said.
“If they want to keep the game moving, bring the boundary throw-in in five metres and throw it into the corridor.”
If introduced, it would be the sixth time AFL headquarters has changed the match rules to women’s football at the national level in the space of only 18 months.
Such rule changes included reducing the numbers on field from 18 to 16, the length of quarters (changed three times), ‘density philosophy’ of having at least two forwards and their opponents inside the 50 metre arcs at all times, a nine-point super goal (State of Origin match), size of the football and the ‘last disposal out-of-bounds’ rule.
It’s not clear whether the AFL Players Association or AFL Coaches Association were consulted on this latest proposed rule change, or if it had come from or been put to the AFL’s Women’s Football Advisory Group, a body that hasn’t published publicly any recommendations since its formation more than a year and a half ago.
The latest rule change highlights the fears published back in April 2016 that the national women’s league would be viewed by AFL headquarters as a guinea pig, and see the game unnecessarily take on a radically different shape from both the AFLM and women’s state league competition.
Additionally, according to a Fox Sports article, state league clubs are concerned if there will be any consistency between rules at the national and state league level, in particular preparing current Youth Girls and state league footballers for the 2019 and 2020 AFLW seasons.
A recent example being the AFLW having 16-a-side for its 2017 season, but the VFLW continuing its 18-a-side format months later.
It’s known that a number of VFLW coaches prepared their squads during the 2017 pre-season for 16-a-side football and were annoyed to find out at the last minute that the league would stick with 18-a-side, while also surprising them with information that quarters would be shortened from 25 to 20 minutes, one day prior to the season’s first match.
The AFL Women’s competition’s second season begins on Friday night, February 2.