AFL open to pre-season changes

The AFL will change the pre-season format to whatever clubs want – so long as they can agree.

The format and future of the NAB Challenge have been drawn into focus again by the farcical match on Thursday night between Richmond and Port Adelaide.

The Tigers finished the match with just 15 on the field after losing four players to injury and even asked to end the contest early.

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley called on the AFL to shorten the NAB Challenge from the current three matches per team in the wake of the bruising 48-point win.

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge suggested bringing back the night pre-season premiership and giving clubs something to play for.

AFL football boss Mark Evans said on Friday there was an open mind at head office.

“If (clubs) believe that preparation can be done in fewer games, we would deliver that,” he said.

“Two years ago we had two matches only and because of the gap between that last match and the start of the season we had requests for an extra practice match.

“If they felt one match was enough we could deliver that.

“If they felt the season could be extended forward and have no matches as preparation, we could consider that.”

Hinkley told SEN radio three matches was too many.

“You don’t need three to get ready. Most teams throughout the competition have used one of those games to field a really inexperienced side,” he said.

Richmond football boss Dan Richardson said the Tigers were open to change.

“If (clubs) get one or two really solid games out of the NAB Challenge they’re going to be happy with that,” he said.

“Are there things … that can improve it? Possibly.

“More interchange players and more consistent number of rotations for all teams in every game is one option.”

Beveridge said he’d bring back the good old days of the night premiership before round one proper.

“I’m a bit of a purist. I’d like to be playing for a trophy, it just adds a bit more meaning,” he said.

“Whether or not you don’t take that too seriously is up to the clubs. It would be nice to be playing for something.”

Evans said that view had not been popular with clubs previously.

The Power boss said scrapping the pre-season altogether was worth consideration.

“I reckon it would be flat out, anything could happen,” he said.

“There could be a few surprises but I don’t think the competition would be drastically affected by it.”

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