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The clampdown on runners explained

MACKAY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 03: The Suns stand together during a a quarter break during the 2019 JLT Community Series AFL match between the Gold Coast Suns and the Western Bulldogs at Great Barrier Reef Arena on March 03, 2019 in Mackay, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Remind me – what's the new rule about runners?

Runners may only enter the field of play after a goal has been kicked and must exit before play restarts. That's typically around 45 seconds. If there's a long period of play between goals, it's down to the players to communicate among one another.

That's a shift from the status quo, where runners have been free to enter the playing surface during quarters so long as they do not interfere with play or players' protected spaces.

Why the change?

Congestion is the key word here. Player congestion around stoppages has been one focus of recent rule changes, but removing the runner further opens up the game by taking one extra body per team off the field.

It also allows the players to play more on instincts and empowers them to make decisions in the big moments. That might mean more tension - for players, coaches and fans alike.

Weren't there going to be interchange boards instead?

Yes, until clubs realised the LED-style boards were hard to read from 100m away on the field, thanks to glare from the sun. A number of clubs felt the digital boards were "impractical" and won't be using them during matches.

Instead, several benches have reverted to static boards to communicate rotations to players. Richmond is consider a cricket scoreboard-style board. St Kilda is experimenting with a board using colours.

The alternative boards can be a maximum of 800mm x 600mm, only one can be used at a time and no sponsor advertising can be displayed. However clubs can determine what the boards are made from and the size of the numbers or symbols shown.

A club staff member must use the board within their interchange zone and it cannot be attached to a stand or bench infrastructure.

What are players and coaches saying?

Brisbane champion Luke Hodge started the ball rolling, demanding the return of runners ahead of round one.

Senior coaches Luke Beveridge and Alan Richardson joined the chorus, with Chris Fagan also hoping for a change. Beveridge, a known tactician, said he felt "helpless" during the Dogs' JLT Series loss to St Kilda without regular use of the runner.

Essendon's boom recruit Dylan Shiel chimed in, saying players were professionals but "it's a high-pressure environment and ... even we get it wrong".

So where does that leave us?

The AFL remains steadfast on its clampdown on runners, saying it was well aware the avalanche of support to reinstate them was coming.

The League sees the change as consistent with its other 2019 rule changes designed to create a more open and free-flowing spectacle.

And it's confident in its homework. "I go back to how much we've consulted on this," AFL football operations boss Steve Hocking said. "It was endless".

After an off-season preparing for the clampdown, it's hard to see the runners making a return now