The AFL – the benevolent, all-seeing eye of Australian Rules Football – has a bit of restless leg syndrome when it comes to its own rules.
Rather than being a steadfast guideline of playing commandments, set in stone early in the sports infancy and largely adhered to ever since, they are a constantly changing, evolving, interpretable work-in-progress, the annual adding to or removing of has becoming something of an event in itself.
And from next year, expect to see your favourite team run out with a little less colour.
The much maligned, loathed, and grumbled about Substitute Rule is going the way of the flick pass, the long ruck run-up, and the use of hands in marking contests.
The Red and Green Vests will be abolished from next year, with the league reverting to a standard four-man interchange bench. This frees up an extra player for teams to utilise at all times, and prevents top line players from becoming professional pine riders, sitting out three quarters of every game.
At the same time, the league will also be reducing the cap on interchange rotations, from the current mark of 120, down to 90 per team per game in season 2016.
That low level of interchange rotation has not been seen in the game since 2009. The sub rule was introduced in 2011 to attempt to curb spiking rotation numbers, which at that stage had nudged on an average of 117.4.
Coaches will still be allowed to make positional changes during quarter breaks, and the concussion sub rule still applies in the sense that a player taken off the field to undergo concussion assessment will not be counted against the rotation cap.
Other forced changes such as the blood rule and removing an injured player on a stretcher will also not count against the cap.
Honestly, if this is all pushing towards a goal of reverting the game back to a point where being benched either meant you fucked up badly and the coach wanted to scream at you, or that your day was over and the crowd applauded you accordingly, then I’m all for it.
Bring back the bench crew going for a jog along the boundary in tracksuit tops, I reckon.
Photo: Quinn Rooney via Getty Images.