AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has hinted the league will introduce a concussion substitute just two days out from the start of the 2021 season.
McLachlan said an announcement would be made on Tuesday morning regarding the potential rule that would most likely see a 23rd player named to a team’s squad but only used in the event a teammate suffered a concussion during the game.
The season kicks off at the MCG on Thursday night when premiers Richmond play Carlton.
“I think there’ll be a decision or an announcement in the morning,” McLachlan told Fox Footy’s AFL 360.
“There’s a lot of stakeholder management to work through, directionally, (but) this is what I’d say:
“This is something that’ll have no impact on the game, the rules.
“It’s a health and safety possibility that I think makes sense if the clubs and coaches want to support it.”
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McLachlan indicated the discussions were still ongoing amid deliberations over whether a substitution would be a general medical substitution, rather than just for concussions.
“That’s why we’re still discussing it, because I think that medical aspect rather than just concussions, is where this might go,” McLachlan said.
“I think that’s what Steve Hocking’s working through at the moment.”
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said he expected the concussion substitute rule to be confirmed on Tuesday but hoped it would instead be a medical substitute along with potential flexibility over which emergency to use rather than a set substitute.
“To get a concussion sub and then a guy breaks his leg four minutes later – why shouldn’t you be able to use the sub for that reason also?” Hardwick also told AFL 360.
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Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson told SEN on Monday morning the coaches were “nearly unanimous” in pushing for the concussion substitute, while GWS counterpart Leon Cameron also publicly backed it.
The AFL previously tightened its concussion protocols in January, with players now ruled out for 12 days after suffering concussions.
Richmond premiership captain Trent Cotchin also threw his support behind a concussion substitute plan.
“It’s important that we protect the players and make sure that they don’t feel like they’re letting teammates down if they don’t play,” Cotchin said.
“With the education that’s around it and the way it typically impacts you, not just now but also down the track in your life.
“I think we’re aware of how significant concussion can be.
“We just want to make sure that we create a really safe environment for players to play.”
Clarkson suggested the substitute player could be restricted to under-21s to avoid coaches bringing on experienced players for tactical reasons, while Sydney counterpart John Longmire flagged including slightly older players with minimal senior experience.