New restrictions on AFL club runners

The AFL has further reduced the role of runners, telling clubs they may not be used to coach players on the ground, direct set plays or position themselves close to stoppages.

Clubs were told that while their runner is still allowed to deliver messages from the coaches box, re-position players or call them to the bench, they cannot “instruct, direct of coach players on ‘in-play’ situations” without risking a fine.

From this weekend runners will no longer be permitted within 25 metres of a stoppage, and must not position themselves inside the 50-metre zone when a stoppage is about to occur.

They must have either left the area entirely or be in the process of doing so, meaning situations like those that saw Geelong runner Nigel Lappin collide with Carlton’s Mitch Robinson late in their round 12 game should be avoided. Runners must also respond immediately to an umpire's request for them to leave the ground.

While free kicks will continue to be paid against runners who interfere with players, other indiscretions are more likely to be dealt with by the league's football operations department.

Several clubs have used development coaches or other football department staff as their runner, especially since the AFL cut the number of runners from two to one at the start of the 2014 season.

The league also reduced the amount of time they were able to spend on the ground, concerned that runners and other on-field officials such as trainers were clogging up space.

Geelong was handed a suspended $2000 fine after Lappin clashed with Robinson in the dying seconds of the match, which the Cats held on to win.

AFL football operations manager Mark Evans has spoken with representatives from all clubs since that incident, with the changes designed to discourage clutter and ensure runners do not interfere with players or umpires.

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