AFL coaches could still be granted their wish for extended interchange bench numbers this year but will have to wait until just days before next month’s season restart for a decision.
Normally capped at four interchange players, several vocal coaches have led calls for that limit to be increased to six.
It comes as teams grapple with a drastically altered football landscape amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Some coaches, including Brisbane mentor Chris Fagan, have argued that the short preparation time after the shutdown period could increase injury rates when the season resumes.
They believe an interchange increase will ease players’ workloads and aid the overall health of club lists throughout the compromised season.
Some big names have already fallen victim to soft tissue injuries since their return to training, with Sydney’s Lance Franklin (hamstring) and Collingwood’s Adam Treloar (calf) set to miss the restart.
AFL football operations boss Steve Hocking on Wednesday confirmed the league was weighing up whether to add one or two more interchange players, which could increase team lists to as many as 24 on match day.
“We’re still considering that and it’s the only thing we’re considering as a final amendment to the game (before the season restarts),” Hocking said.
“The week leading into round two is when that will be finalised.”
Regardless of bench sizes, interchange rotations will remain capped at 90 per team.
Hocking confirmed that the shortened 16-minute quarters – plus time-on – that were used in round one would also remain in place throughout the 2020 campaign.
But he stressed that should not be viewed as an indicator of quarter length beyond this year.
West Coast captain Luke Shuey welcomed the move towards shorter quarters and said they could help extend players’ careers if brought in permanently.
“We want to see more of Buddy Franklin and Joel Selwood and Scotty Pendlebury and maybe with shorter games we can get a couple of extra years out of these guys,” Shuey said.
“You’ll always get traditionalists that don’t want to change a thing but the reality is the game is changing, so maybe we need to adapt with it in some regard.”