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AFLW: 11 rule tweaks

Eleven new rules or rule interpretations will be in play in the 2019 NAB AFL Women's season.

Of the 11 changes, eight follow the alterations made to the AFL rules, given both competitions are governed by the Laws of the Game.

Three AFLW-specific rules will also come into play next year after they were approved by the AFL Commission last month and presented to the AFLW Competition Committee on Wednesday. 

The AFLW-specific rules will see: 

  • Boundary throw-ins to be brought in by 10 metres, with the aim of creating more space around the contest and fewer secondary stoppages
  • Last touch applied only between the 50-metre arcs, with the ball to be thrown in after it crosses the boundary line inside-50
  • Runners and water-carriers allowed on the field during live play, given the hot temperatures experienced in February and March, and the greater number of inexperienced players

The only AFLW-specific rule which was presented to the Commission but not applied was an 18-metre extended goalsquare, which has also not been adopted in the AFL.

The rules variations that will apply to both the AFL and the AFLW include: 

  • A 5-6-5 playing formation at centre bounces, with five forwards (including one inside the goalsquare itself), six midfielders (including the ruck) and five defenders lining up in "traditional playing positions". This becomes a formal rule, having been presented as a 'spirit of the game' guideline in 2018
  • For kick-ins from a behind, players will no longer need to kick to themselves before playing on out of the goal square. Opposition players standing the mark will now be positioned 10 metres from the top of the goalsquare, as oppose to the current five
  • When defenders mark or receive a free kick within nine metres of their own goal, the player on the mark will be brought in line with the top of the goalsquare
  • Players cannot set up behind the umpire at centre bounces
  • Players who have been given a 50m penalty can play on while the penalty is being measured out
  • Players can now kick across their body using a snap or checkside kick after taking a mark after the siren. The player still has to dispose of the ball while directly in line with the player on the mark
  • Players are now able to place their hands in the back of an opponent to protect marking space, but are not allowed to push the player in the back
  • Rucks who take possession of the ball in a ruck contest (bounce or throw-in) will no longer be regarded as already having had prior opportunity if immediately tackled. Ruck nominations will only be needed if there is confusion over who the contesting ruck is

AFL head of women's football Nicole Livingstone said umpires will present to all teams and coaches on the rule changes and variations during the pre-season. 

"We're still at the very early development stage of this league and our objective is to create free-flowing play," Livingstone said.

"Together with the game analysis team we've looked really carefully at data and trends of our first two seasons to try and help us with making these informed decisions and adjusting rules.

"All the rules have been trialled at both the NAB AFLW Under-18 Championships, the [under-18] exhibition match and VFLW matches and our findings have already been communicated to the coaches of AFLW clubs, so they're already thinking about, once the girls start training, how to implement and educate the players with these new rules."

AFLW umpires in 2019 will be drawn from a panel of AFLW-only umpires, rather than in the two seasons past where umpires swapped between men's and women's competitions.

"A lot of [the rule changes] are small nuances we think players will take to very quickly," Livingstone said.

"The last-touch was in place last year, we've now just tweaked it [to only apply] between the arcs, making sure it doesn't inhibit players from wanting to have a crack at goal for fear of it being turned over.

"We hope it will encourage further scoring, but the thing we're really looking for is for players to be able to showcase their skills and ability to play football. We think it will move the ball more freely and if it's moving more freely, then it will result in higher scoring."

The AFLW Competition Committee also discussed possible adjustments to the Match Review Officer's guidelines, but nothing will be announced until further discussions have been had with the AFL Competition Committee and the AFL Commission, whose next meeting is in December.

The future of the AFLW competition was also on the agenda, with Gold Coast, Richmond, St Kilda and West Coast joining in 2020.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs