04/03/2024
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan fronted the media in Sydney on Thursday, praising the league’s clubs and players for the quality of football on display during round one.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has lauded the league’s clubs and players for the quality of football on display during the opening round of the 2021 season.

McLachlan fronted the media in Sydney on Thursday, praising the skill level on display in round one, and discussed the outcomes of the much-maligned ‘stand’ rule change. 

“I think the rules played their part,” he said.

“I want to commend the comp committee, particularly Steve Hocking… he has been clear that he wants less congestion in the game.

“The football was fabulous… Generally, the game was high-scoring, open, physical and contested.”

McLachlan also highlighted that the spectacle of the game had changed slightly, perhaps due in part to the new rule, and encouraged fans to observe the matches themselves.

“I encourage everyone to get to the games,” he said.

“Being there live… it looked different.

“It felt more open, and [with players] having the confidence to play on and kick down the middle, and take the game on, that’s what we want.”

The return to 20-minute quarters undoubtedly assisted the scoring capacity of teams in round one, with an average of 85 points per team a significant increase on 2020’s opening round, which saw teams score an average of 63 points. 

McLachlan also discussed the introduction of the medical substitute, making it clear that he has no fears that the rule could be exploited.

“I have never had any reason to question the integrity of our doctors,” he said.

“If they’re contemplating the injury of a nature that the player will be out for 12 days, but are able to come back quicker, great. 

“We hear of people being out for 4 months but being back within 2 weeks. I think that’s part of the rehabilitation process.”

With the medical substitute likely to be in focus throughout the season due to its sudden inclusion, McLachlan was clear as to the objective behind its introduction.

“That priority mindset about the health and wellbeing of our players is why it’s been introduced.”

“I thought it went pretty seamlessly.”

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