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.
“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.
“It was a really good discussion from the coaches the other day,” GWS coach Leon Cameron said.
“I really support it. I think it’s great. Firstly a great initiative, what the AFL has done in terms of the new concussion protocols and the 12 days.
“There’s no doubt a lot more research going into this, and I think the 12 days is a really good choice.
“We feel as coaches it might be another good choice, having someone sit there for that reason.
“If someone does cop a head knock then they can come off, get assessed properly and if they’re not right to come back on then you can have someone ready to take their place.”
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.”