It’s AFL, but not as you know it.
On Thursday the first game of AFLX – a shorter, faster version of Aussie Rules – will be played.
So how exactly does this new type of footy work? And is it AFL’s version of T20 cricket?
AFL game development manager Grant Williams helped create the new format.
“AFLX is played on a rectangular field, there is only 10 players on each team, as opposed to 22 in a normal AFL game played on an oval,” he explained.
“Seven of those are on the field at any one time and three are on the interchange bench.”
Williams said there are a number of rules that should create a much faster game than traditional AFL.
“After a goal or a behind the ball is kicked out from behind the goal line, so not taken back to the centre for a centre bounce,” Willams said.
The game will also be played with a rule meaning the last team to touch a ball before it goes out of play loses possession.
That will combine with shorter, 10-minute halves and 10-point super goals for majors kicked on the full from outside a 40 metre arc.
So why is the AFL creating this new version of its code?
While Williams said the AFL isn’t trying to directly compete with shorter versions of other sports, he does hope the AFL can use this new format to expand its supporter base.
“It gives us the opportunity to take some of the best players we have in Australian football at the highest level to overseas locations to promote the game,” he said.
“It also gives us an opportunity particularly in NSW and Queensland, where there are not as many ovals as other states, that we could potentially play this game anywhere.”
And what do the players think of the new format?
The Gold Coast Suns recently trialled AFLX at training.
Suns midfielder Touk Miller said the differences in the shorter format was obvious.
“I can see why it is going to be really exciting,” Miller said.
“The ball moves really quickly, it is a bit like basketball I guess, the ball is really end-to-end.
“There are such limited numbers on the field, there is less contested footy – I think we might have had one or two ball-ups max in our group.”
While there has been speculation AFLX will favour smaller, quick players, Miller said Suns forwards Peter Wright and Tom Lynch both stood out for their marking ability during trial games.
While AFLX will look different, will it attract new fans?
Bond University’s Associate Professor of Sports Management Danny O’Brien says AFLX is part of a broader trend towards shorter sports games.
“It’s kind of a reflection of the rest of society at the moment,” he said.
“The cynics might say we have shorter attention spans but people do have less leisure time and the rest of society does seem to be going this way with speaking in sound bites and 140 characters or less as in Twitter,” he said.
A sneak peak at Hindmarsh Stadium ahead of next week's inaugural AFLX Tournament!
— Port Adelaide FC (@PAFC) February 6, 2018
The academic says other sports have had mixed results with shorter formats, with T20 cricket the strongest performer.
He does think AFLX could work overseas.
“Maybe this shorter version, faster version, less emphasis on body contact, will be more palatable to an international markets,” Mr O’Brien said.
“I remember watching an attendee at the game in China last year and he said ‘It is quite brutal and doesn’t particularly appeal to Chinese as a sport they want to play’.”
The first AFLX tournament will run from February 15-17 with games in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.