AFL 2021 has been off to a nail-biting start. The past few weeks have seen some spectacular matches.
The surprising victories of the first three rounds have fans on the edge, hungry for more.
Unexpected wins are not the only factor contributing to the excitement. This year’s tournament has seen some major changes being implemented in the AFL.
In addition to changes in rules observed on and off the field, the AFL has also introduced newer rules regarding the fixture, concussions, crowd figures, player movement between teams, salary cap squeezes, pre-season structure and second tier competition.
There have been some leadership changes as well with Ben McEvoy replacing the retired Ben Stratton as Hawthorn captain and Jack Steele’s elevation as co-captain at St Kilda alongside 2020 skipper Jarryn Geary.
Most notably, a new man on the mark rule has been introduced with the view to speed up ball movement.
According to AFL enthusiast and entrepreneur Daren Herft, “It has been a significant change, freeing up space on the field and has opened up the game a lot more.”
The rule decrees that the defending player won’t be allowed to move laterally on the mark and will be forced to become a statue when the umpire calls him to ‘stand’.
The player on the mark, defending the kick-in, has been pushed back by five metres. While last year’s requirement for the defending player was 10m away from the goalsquare, this year it’s been extended to 15m.
Any infringements before ‘play on’ is called by the umpire and will result in a whopping 50m penalty.
Darren Herft also thinks that the rule change has been beneficial to the bigger and taller forwards.
“The man on the mark rule gives the taller forwards a lot more leverage in scoring as has been observed in the matches so far,” says Herft.
The rule has been the subject of much discussion by the AFL and fans alike. It has also been subject to a high level of scrutiny due to its impact on the game dynamics.
“It’s wonderful to see the taller players and forwards being able to have a bit more space and being able to run with the ball more,” he adds.
A notable example of the benefit wrought by the rule has been Tex Walker from the Adelaide Crows. Getting towards the end of his career, many fans were under the impression that the 30-year-old Walker would retire this year.
Exceeding expectations, Walker has dominated the field this year. On top of a good performance in round one, he kicked two bags of six goals in the last two weeks.
“It’s great to see the forwards playing well,” says Darren Herft.
For more AFL content, visit Darren Herft’s sports website.