AFL keen to tighten rule on smothers after Maynard case

The Brayden Maynard tribunal case that sparked a firestorm of commentary and fallout has prompted the AFL to tighten its tribunal rules around smothers.

It's the lead item on a raft of proposed rule changes and amendments sent to clubs on Thursday, ahead of the February AFL Commission meeting.

Maynard was referred to the tribunal after the Collingwood defender jumped off the ground to smother a kick from Melbourne onballer Angus Brayshaw in the first term of their qualifying final in September.

Collingwood's Brayden Maynard, left, checks on Angus Brayshaw
Collingwood's Brayden Maynard (left) checks on the condition of Melbourne onballer Angus Brayshaw.

Brayshaw was concussed in the incident, ultimately ending his season.

After a marathon four-hour hearing, the Magpie defender was cleared and went on to play in their grand final win over Brisbane.

AFL football boss Laura Kane made it clear in September that the league was uneasy about the case and would review the relevant rule governing smothers of kicks or handballs in the tribunal guidelines.

"As I said at the time, it was borne out of us not being comfortable with that situation," she said.

"Equally, we were not content with the outcome ... not content with what question the tribunal had to determine or grapple with."

AFL legal counsel Stephen Meade added: "We're not comfortable that ultimately that conduct and that outcome has that result, in terms of there being effectively no disciplinary penalty there for the player."

The proposed rule change effectively means that when a player leaves the ground to execute a smother, they must show a greater duty of care to the opponent.

Kane and Meade again noted at Thursday's media briefing on the proposed rule changes that the Maynard case was unique.

"Where a player elects to leave the ground in an attempt to smother, and gets the opponent high, so long as at least the impact is low ... that will be deemed to be careless," Meade said.

"Then it will be careless unless a player can demonstrate they took all reasonable steps to avoid the contact or to minimise the force of the contest."

Another important proposal for the tribunal guidelines is to tighten up on run-down tackles, where a player catches an opponent from behind with so much momentum that "the tackling player significantly increased the force with which the tackled player was driven to ground".

The AFL also wants to cut down on tribunal hearings, with this year's crackdown on dangerous tackles meaning a dramatic increase in direct referrals to the tribunal.

There were 11 charges rated as severe this season, meaning a direct referral - last year there was one.

The league wants to give a charged player the option to accept the penalty in these cases, provided the AFL only wants the minimum suspension.

That option would only be at the AFL's discretion.

Thursday's memo features more than 20 proposals for the tribunal guidelines and AFL regulations, with clubs also asked for feedback on when they name their substitute players before games.

One of the more curious proposals is a ban on coaches and other staff whistling "or making any other such noises" from the interchange bench to get the attention of players on the ground.

The AFL says this "interrupts the audio of match broadcasts".

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