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AFL set to make concussion substitute call

The AFL will decide whether to introduce a concussion substitute for the 2021 season just days out from round one.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said he’d spoken with football boss Steve Hocking about potentially introducing the concussion substitute after a meeting with the league’s coaches.

It is unlikely the AFL will announce a decision on Monday regarding the concussion substitute rule, which would see a 23rd player named to a team’s squad but only used in the event a teammate suffered a concussion during the game.

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson told SEN earlier the coaches were “nearly unanimous” in pushing for the concussion substitute.

The AFL previously tightened its concussion protocols in January, with players now ruled out for 12 days after suffering concussions.

“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.”

Clarkson suggested the substitute player could be restricted to under-21s to avoid coaches bringing on experienced players for tactical reasons, while Sydney counterpart John Longmire flagged including slightly older players with minimal senior experience.

“Should it be under 21?” Longmire said.

“If a 22 or 23-year-old has only played three games, should he be seen in that light as well? Maybe.”

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