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AFL stands firm on runner restrictions

  - Gold Coast Suns

Coaches wanting greater on-field access for their runners can forget it, with AFL football operations boss Steve Hocking ruling the crackdown on messaging will stay for season 2019. 

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge was most vocal about the rules pertaining to runners on the weekend, mistakenly suggesting he was "sure" of an AFL backdown on the matter before round one.

St Kilda's Alan Richardson and Brisbane's Chris Fagan were also hopeful of a change.

"Having worked with coaches, I wasn't (surprised at the weekend commentary)," Hocking said.

"I get that we are right in a point in time where it is a bit of a holding pattern amongst the coaches, they are not sure how their team is going to perform for the season, and they get a bit toey." 

As part of significant rule and interpretation changes for the 2019 season, runners can only enter the playing arena after a goal has been kicked.

"Coaches are a bit scared, a bit nude (feeling exposed) from where they've been," Hocking said.

"… He (Beveridge) is entitled to say that, it's OK for him to call that out, but I go back to how much we've consulted on this. It was endless." 

Hocking was adamant that all the rule changes complemented each other. He conceded there were moments of confusion with some aspects of the new guidelines in the two rounds of JLT series practice matches, particularly in the no-go zone of offending players who had 50m penalties paid against them. 

"Our feeling was there was always going to be the odd clunkiness around certain rules but the important call-out for me was all of those changes work together, they are a suite of rules that are going to impact space, and time and space within the game," Hocking said.

"We're not going to move away from that. It was done for very deliberate reasons, and that was to open the game up. It was done to make sure players had opportunities to be instinctive, done to provide coaches with strategic tension and different scenarios to work through and also done for the fans." 

Hocking later said in a press conference there was initial confusion in the AFLW about the 50m penalty changes but the players had since adapted, and he expected that to happen in the men's competition.

"We've already seen change in AFLW, if you have a look at how that's been executed at AFLW level," Hocking said.

"Early on there were some indiscretions around that, but players learn really quickly and it's important that they do, because it's a big penalty."

After Sunday's JLT Series loss to St Kilda, Beveridge said he expected an AFL backdown on the runner rules. 

"I'm looking forward to having access to the runner again during quarters ... hopefully that will happen over the next couple of weeks," Beveridge said.

"... I'm sure that going into round one we'll probably be able to use our runner a bit during quarters."