Leading AFL coaches support bigger bench

Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson has thrown his backing behind an expanded AFL bench.
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson has thrown his backing behind an expanded AFL bench.

Coaches Alastair Clarkson and Nathan Buckley have joined the growing group of heavyweight AFL identities supporting an extended interchange bench

With mooted four-day turnarounds on the horizon as the competition battles to keep going in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and rising injury tolls, the AFL is coming under increasing pressure to allow teams to use extra players

On Friday, Richmond's dual premiership winning coach Damien Hardwick and Players Association president Patrick Dangerfield urged the AFL to increase the number of players on interchange benches if fixtures are crammed into a shorter time frame.

Hawks' four-time premiership winning coach Clarkson and Magpies' mentor Buckley also expressed support for the idea after their teams clashed in Sydney on Friday night.

"I think the 23rd and the 24th player makes sense and not as subs, but I actually like them as players that you can rotate, for different reasons," Buckley said after his side's 32-point win at Giants Stadium.

With a big clash against Geelong just six days later, Buckley made the call to rest the outstanding Jamie Elliott in the latter stages of Friday's game after he copped a hit to the shin.

"If you were in that situation and knew you had to play a game in four days time, it's a little bit more like an EPL (English Premier League) manager, type set up, where you can actually manage your better players, and potentially having them play more consistently off shorter breaks," Buckley said.

"I think that's something that the AFL have considered and discussed, and I think if they implemented that, it would be wise."

Clarkson, who watched the Hawks post their lowest score under his tenure - just 27 points, had a couple of reasons for supporting the extended interchange bench.

"It just gives you more opportunity to have your quality players on the ground," Clarkson said.

"'For the 17 clubs that aren't going to be Premiers, then at least if you've got more interchange, you might have been able to debut some more players and give some younger players an opportunity.

"There's no official reserve grade competition now because of the pandemic, so it does give you an opportunity to be able to blood some young players.

"Because the future of the game is really important for all clubs and the league, so if we had a couple of extra spots, that would be great to blood some youngsters."

Australian Associated Press