Three rounds down and already there are question marks hovering over both of last year’s grand finalists, Richmond and the GWS Giants, who have both failed to win a game between them since the AFL’s resumption.
Brad Scott rates the AFL’s new 6-6-6 rule a North Melbourne killer that’s also putting fresh life into the game.
The Kangaroos coach sits on the league’s competition committee and he has conflicting views about how their raft of changes is impacting play after nine rounds.
Scott and AFL football operations boss Steve Hocking said on Wednesday that overall, the nine rule changes are having the desired effect of making the game more open and less predictable.
They added that while scoring has declined this season, they felt it was a function of coach tactics, not the new rules.
The 6-6-6 player positioning at centre bounces is one of the key changes.
“Certainly in hindsight if I could go back I’d change the 6-6-6 (rule), because it’s killed North Melbourne, but it’s been good for the game – the game looks better,” Scott said.
“While scoring is as low as it’s been since 1968, the reasons in my view are nothing to do with rule changes.
“It’s all to do with coaching tactics.”
Scott said he had video footage from last season of 19 players being in the frame within two seconds of a centre bounce.
This year, there are only the four midfielders and two wingmen from either side.
“That in and of itself, has been a good change,” Scott said.
“But post-that, 60 to 90 seconds after the centre bounce, the game is going back to a really defensive game.
“In my view, that’s a short-term thing based on the current coaching tactics.”
But Scott and the other coaches continue to lobby for a relaxing of the new restrictions on team runners and this was brought up again at Wednesday’s competition committee meeting.
While there has been considerable debate about the effect of the rule changes, Hocking is pleased.
“The feedback I’m getting from a whole host of stakeholders is they are engrossed in the game and they’re not turning off at half time,” he said.
“They’re watching right through to the end.
“They know teams can be run down … there’s real upside around that.”
Hocking said the AFL is also about to interview applicants for its new role of mental health manager.
The league is also looking at ways to streamline the pre-season, so clubs have more continuous access to players for training over an eight- to 10-week period.