Melbourne will unfurl their premiership flag when they host the Western Bulldogs in the 2022 AFL season opener to kick off a March football feast in Victoria.
Gillon McLachlan is placing his faith in AFL team doctors and is confident the new medical substitute’s rule won’t be rorted.
The AFL boss has no fears the integrity of the competition will be compromised if players who were substituted for medical reasons in round one are passed fit to play this week.
A number of substitutions were made in the opening round after the new concussion and medical replacements rule was introduced shortly before the season’s start.
“I have never had any reason to question the integrity of our doctors,” McLachlan said in Sydney on Thursday.
“On the day they make a declaration that they contemplate the injury is of a nature that the player will be out for 12 days, if they are able to come back quicker, great.
“We hear of people being out for four months and being back within two weeks and I think that’s part of football and part of the rehabilitation process, them making those estimations and we will continue to work through it.
“We have a team of people working on each sub, working with the doctors on that issue but I don’t have any reason to question it.”
Asked if he was afraid the rule could still be rorted, McLachlan said: “I think people are real about our industry, that every rule people look to work around it.
“We’ve got the doctors, the interface of the decision makers, and the integrity department reviews each case on the Monday or Tuesday and it’s a rule that sits within our code of conduct.”
McLachlan described last weekend’s round as “fabulous” and attributed that in some measure to the rule changes.
“There’s always a bit of a mixed bag but generally the game was high scoring and open, and physical and contested,” McLachlan said.
“I think the consensus was the footy was great. Why?
“I think the rules played their part. I want to commend the comp committee and particularly Steve Hocking, who ultimately has to own the tough decisions, and the Commission.
“He (Hocking) has been clear that he wants less congestion in the game and that’s what we saw on the weekend.”
McLachlan stressed there was still a place for the bump in the game after Geelong superstar Patrick Dangerfield was handed a three-match suspension for hitting the head and breaking the nose of Adelaide’s Jake Kelly
“The people that make the decisions on the framing of the rule are to be commended when it was very clear on the weekend that Patrick Dangerfield, there was no malice, but he elected to bump and Jake Kelly was concussed and there was going to be an accountability for that.
“That’s what I want everyone to know, you can bump, but if you hit the head you will be accountable for that.”