Television personality Waleed Aly has given a scathing assessment of the AFL’s newly-introduced medical substitution rule, arguing players who are withdrawn from a match should be required to miss the subsequent game.
On Wednesday, the AFL confirmed the controversial medical substitution would be introduced for the 2021 premiership.
The new rule allows clubs to bring on a “23rd man” if team doctors believe a player’s injury will keep them on the sidelines for at least 10 days.
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After suffering a corked knee during Thursday evening’s season opener against Carlton, Richmond Tigers defender Nick Vlastuin became the first player to be subbed out with an injury, replaced by young gun Jack Ross.
But some footy pundits inevitably questioned the severity of the 26-year-old’s injury, arguing Richmond exploited the new rule to bring on Ross with fresh legs.
Controversially, Vlastuin could be permitted to feature in Richmond’s upcoming match against Hawthorn if fit to play and cleared by the AFL’s chief medical officer.
Speaking on ABC’s Offsiders, Aly argued that Vlastuin should be forced to miss Richmond’s round two fixture, regardless of the injury’s severity — this would mirror the AFL’s current concussion protocols.
“If you widen it to a medical sub, which I don’t think you should, it can’t be an assessment that maybe this is a 12-day injury. It should be equivalent to concussion. Even if it turns out what you pulled was a heart muscle, that’s it,” Aly said on Sunday morning.
“The problem is if you get a concussion and a shoulder injury — like in the Grand Final last year — why should be the one who didn’t get the concussion be disadvantaged?
“But now you’ve created a reverse disadvantage, so you’ve created an inequity.
“Vlastuin should be forced not to play if the rule is serious, but that isn’t the way it works.”
ABC commentator Alister Nicholson echoed Aly’s comments, calling for the injuries to be mandated the same way as concussions to avoid inequity.
“I don’t really like the injury sub, and don’t really like the concussion sub, but can live with it given it is such a significant issue in the game that has far-reaching consequences down the track,” Nicholson said.
“But if you have a situation where a doctor has to decide that a player is injured for likely 12 days, just mandate it like you did with the concussion sub.
“The doctor on the spot needs to make a quick assessment in the heat of battle about whether the player can go back on and whether their injury is going to be a 12-day injury. I would say that puts the doctor on far more pressure.”
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Aly responded: “And it shouldn’t be a club doctor. If you’re going to have rules like this, you need an independent doctor.”
The 42-year-old also pointed out that clubs could freely exploit the new rule during the Grand Final, knowing there are no repercussions.
AFL football boss Steve Hocking ticked off both club’s use of the medical substitution during Thursday’s season opener at the MCG.
“I have only got complimentary remarks to make about how both clubs instituted it last night,” Hocking told SEN Radio on Friday.
“We have got trust in our doctors and we have got the right processes in place to address whatever might come out of the medical sub. I will come back to the fact I saw it in full operation last night and I will have another look tonight and we will continue to monitor it as we need to. I have got confidence in our doctors and the broader industry.”
Richmond will next face the Hawthorn Hawks at the MCG on Sunday, March 28th.