AFL deliberates on concussion substitute for 2021 season after coaches’ plea

Richmond and Carlton are under 48 hours away from naming their teams for the 2021 AFL season opener – and they are yet to learn how many players they need to pick.

League officials are still weighing up whether to introduce a concussion substitute, promoted by coaches as a last-minute rule change worth making.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said he had spoken with football boss Steve Hocking and a decision looked likely to arrive on Monday.

Instead, the decision on whether a 23rd player can replace a concussed teammate is set to come even closer to the opening game as the AFL works on finer details.

Hawthorn’s Alastair Clarkson earlier declared the coaches were “nearly unanimous” in pushing for the return of the substitute.

He suggested the AFL could restrict it to players aged under 21 to avoid coaches bringing on experienced players for tactical reasons.

“As coaches you’re going to try and exploit anything possible and the spirit of it is to protect the players,” Clarkson told SEN radio.

Alastair Clarkson is desperate for the AFL to introduce a 23rd man as a concussion substitute. Credit: Getty

“And beyond the spirit of just making sure your players are protected, it also steers itself towards blooding youth for our game.

“Luke Breust played his first 15 games as a sub, so did Brad Hill, it’s just a great way to integrate these young kids into footy where they don’t have to play a full game.

“There’s lot of benefits for it, we’ll just have to wait and see whether the AFL (agrees). It’s pretty hasty doing it in the 10 days prior to the season.”

Sydney coach John Longmire flagged qualifications such as games played to enable the selection of lightly used or project players aged 22 or 23.

The possible rule change comes after the AFL tightened its protocols in January, with players now ruled out for 12 days after a concussion.

Brad Ebert was concussed in his final game in last year's finals.
Brad Ebert was concussed in his final game in last year’s finals. Credit: Getty

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