Premiership Western Bulldog Tom Liberatore has shrugged off concerns about the AFL’s new interchange rule, saying the Bulldogs have the midfield depth to combat fatigue in their engine room.
The Bulldogs’ procession of talented and hard-running midfielders was on display as they beat Melbourne by 39 points at Marvel Stadium in their AAMI Community Series match on Monday.
The Dogs showed why they are tipped to challenge for the top four this year after finishing seventh in 2020, their midfield dominating the Demons.
Josh Dunkley, who requested a trade to Essendon during the pre-season out of a desire for more midfield time, suggested he will demand a place through the middle with 32 touches, while Jack Macrae had 39, captain Marcus Bontempelli 32 and Liberatore 31.
The AFL has reduced the cap on interchange rotations from 90 to 75, hoping the change will mean players become tired more quickly, reducing congestion. This, combined with quarters returning to 20 minutes in length and the contentious ‘man-on-the-mark’ rule, is designed to promote a more open, higher-scoring style of football that is more attractive to fans.
Coaches have mostly said the interchange cut and 20-minute quarters have led to more fatigue during the pre-season. There has also been concern that this could lead to more injuries.
But Liberatore, who may spend more time up forward to rest, said the Bulldogs had trained for the new conditions.
Practically, he said, it meant he was spending five minutes on the bench as opposed to two or three minutes at a time, and that he played longer bursts on the field.