Footy legend Jonathan Brown has voiced his concerns that the AFL’s controversial medical substitution rule change has already been abused one match into the season.
On a night where speculation surrounding the rule and how it was used by Carlton and Richmond to get fresh legs on the field in the second half went berserk, Brown was the highest-profile star to share his scepticism that teams will play within the rules.
Brown and Fox Footy colleagues Garry Lyon and Nick Riewoldt all questioned how the rule was used in Richmond’s 15.15 (105) to 11.14 (80) victory, openly mocking how easy it is for the rule to be exploited.
The new rule, rushed in at the last minute this week, allows clubs to use a 23rd player to be used only as a medical substitution if a teammate suffers a serious injury, as determined by the club’s doctor.
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Brown went a step further by suggesting Carlton and Richmond may have already broken it entirely.
The rule raised eyebrows after half time when Carlton first benched Jack Silvagni after he appeared to suffer a shoulder injury and was replaced by Oscar McDonald.
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Medical Sub player Jack Ross of the Tigers takes off his warm-up jacket on the bench.Source:Getty Images
McDonald made an explosive start and kicked two quick goals.
The Tigers then followed by taking Nick Vlastuin out of the game as a substitution for Jack Ross.
It emerged later that Vlastuin had suffered a knee cork.
Brown said the circumstances surrounding the substitutions left the door open for fans to accuse the clubs of breaking the rules by cooking up injuries that didn’t exist.
“As if the coaches weren’t going to exploit that rule.” Brown told Fox Footy after the game.
“This is unbelievable. I feel for the doctors. I feel for both doctors already. Especially the Richmond doctor.
“If he (Vlastuin) plays next week there is uproar.
“Straight away in Round 1 it’s been exploited that rule.”
Riewoldt said with a grin the rule means that it “isn’t hard for clubs to find an injury”.
He also said it is “ridiculous” that substituted players are credited with a senior appearance even if they fail to get on the ground.
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Jack Silvagni was the first player subbed.Source:Getty Images
Lyon also suggested Richmond would have been tempted to find a way to get Ross on the field.
“You just wonder if you’re sitting in the coaches’ box and you go, ‘Hey, Oscar McDonald’s having a big impact here. Let’s get ours on. We’ve got no injuries so let’s go and find one’,” he said.
The rule allows a club to substitute an injured player only if the club doctor “reasonably determines” the injury would rule the player out of playing any game of football in the next 12 days.
If a player is concussed, they must serve a mandatory 12-day break away from football under the new rule.
The diagnosis and assessment of injuries rests solely in the hands of the club doctors.
The AFL can sanction clubs if it believes the rule has been breached.
Tigers coach Damien Hardwick said in his post-match press conference he was comfortable with how the medical sub was used during the game.
He said Vlastuin will have scans on the injured knee on Friday.
“I know people will jump up and down about it… I don’t think having one more player on there is going to make a difference,” he said.
Meanwhile, Brown said before the game he already didn’t like the rule.
“You could drive a semi trailer through the holes in it,” he said.
“Coaches can exploit it no doubt about it. I think the AFL is covering themselves a little bit. I think they’ve extended the game back out to 20 minutes, reduced the interchange, they’re worried about the length of the games.
“They’ve got spooked. I think they’re worried about soft tissue injuries early in the season.”
All eyes will be on Silvagni and Vlastuin and their selections for Round 2.
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