Why a 23rd player can fix nonsensical medical sub rule

AFL, featured, Medical sub

The AFL medical sub rule is nonsensical.

Especially when its feeder competitions – NAB League and VFL – don’t use medical substitutes and instead have used a far more practical equivalent in the past.

The medical sub rule was rushed, leaves debutants with a sour taste in their mouth and is virtually the same rule that was scrapped at the end of 2015, just without the hideous green and red vest.

The VFL and NAB League have a 23rd player rule, which allows sides to name 23 players, with a nominated 23rd player monitored with a cap of time in which they’re allowed on the field.

For the VFL, the rule was abolished in 2021, but swiftly reinstated in 2022.

This player’s game time – like every other – is monitored on the boundary line and the player is not forced to sit awaiting a potential injury.

In the VFL, the player was allowed to play only 60 per cent of game time and there was a cap on how many times a single player was allowed to be selected as the 23rd player.

This rule simply has to be brought into the AFL.

It would wash out any of the upsetting images of a player sitting on the bench in a warm-up tee. Not to mention another James Jordon case, where Jordon was forced to sit on the sideline as his side won the 2021 premiership.

James Jordon

(Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

On the flip side to a debutant, it could potentially be used brilliantly to accommodate a senior player coming back from injury, or carrying a niggle, without giving them the tag of being a sub.

There can also be tweaks to the rule that would make it bringing it in seamless, while simultaneously maintain the integrity of the competition.

The amount of times any particular player is 23rd could be capped.

The 23rd player could not be the selected 23rd three weeks in a row.

If another player sustains an injury early in the game and has less than 60 per cent game time recorded, the 23rd player could then not be capped on game time and not be considered the 23rd.

And finally, the 23rd player’s rotations on and off the bench could not count towards the restricted number, to prevent the unlikely case of a club’s best player being on the bench while the 23rd is on the ground in the dying stages of a tight match.

The 23rd player has potential and is far more practical than the medical substitute.

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