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AFL moves to protect head

By AAP .
17 December 2013 08:58PM EST

THE head has been ruled out of bounds in the AFL's 2014 rule changes, which will further penalise high and low hits and introduce an interchange cap.

The AFL has cited player health and safety for the laws of the game changes which are likely to upset traditionalists and fans of the bump.

Bumpers are likely to face report for rough conduct if a bump produces a head clash, while head-duckers and players leading with their head into a tackle will not be rewarded for putting themselves into harm's way.

A player who drives his head into a stationary or near stationary player will be seen as having prior opportunity, while umpires will call play on when players duck their head into a tackle.

In an amendment to the forceful contact below knees rule brought in this year, players could also give up free kicks without touching an opponent if they "act in a manner likely to cause injury" - similar to the kicking in danger rule.

The already flagged 120 interchange rotations per game cap was also ratified in the rule changes, and will not include changes at quarter breaks.

AFL football operations boss Mark Evans said the changes were a result of extensive consultation from all sides of the game, including fans.

"These amendments are in keeping with the AFL's strong stance to protect against head injury," he said.

"From our research, the number one guiding principle for fans is that the game should remain a physically tough and contested game with body contact, however nearly three quarters of fans agree that player welfare should be at the heart of the Laws."

Evans said the changes were guided by consultation with clubs, the players and coaches associations, medical officers and fan research, amongst others.

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