Football personality Kane Cornes has questioned the use of the AFL’s medical sub rule after several occasions this season where a subbed player has played the following the week.

So far in 2022, there have been 15 instances where players have been subbed out of the game but lined up in the next match, putting the rule under the microscope – which states subbed players have been deemed by doctors to likely miss at least one game.

Cornes has reservations about the rule and wonders if it still has a place in our game.

“I’m not just sceptical of the way Port Adelaide use it, (but) it’s the third time they’ve used it in a way that I think could be questioned,” Cornes told SEN SA Breakfast earlier this month.

“(Robbie) Gray was subbed out but played again [the following] week, and (Mitch) Georgiades is saying (he had) a tight calf – there’s no way to fact check that.

“It is coincidental that he (Georgiades) was subbed out and (Port Adelaide) got fresh legs at three quarter time?”

Players subbed who played the following week:

Round Team Player Injury
Round 1 Brisbane Lions Dayne Zorko Foot
Round 1  Geelong Jeremy Cameron Hip pointer
Round 2 Richmond Thomson Dow Knee
Round 2 Hawthorn Chad Wingard Hamstring
Round 2 Port Adelaide Trent McKenzie Ankle
Round 3 Hawthorn Jack Scrimshaw Shoulder
Round 3 North Melbourne Ben McKay Quad
Round 3 West Coast Jamaine Jones Leg
Round 4 Gold Coast Jy Farrar Hamstring
Round 5 Collingwood Darcy Cameron Leg
Round 5 Gold Coast Mabior Chol Adductor
Round 6 Port Adelaide Robbie Gray Knee
Round 6 Essendon Jayden Laverde Knee
Round 7 Port Adelaide Mitch Georgiades Calf
Round 7 Gold Coast Connor Budarick Ankle


Jeremy Cameron - Geelong

Cornes suggested the AFL implement a mandatory week off once a player is subbed from the game, as this is the logical recovery time from an injury.

The Power legend said this would result in less uses of the medical sub, given it would prevent the player from participating the following week.

“That would stop the coaches using it to gain an advantage late in games,” Cornes said.

“When you have conjecture around the sub rule in general … the AFL have got to sort this mess out.

“This medical sub was supposed to be only for an injured player who would not be allowed or available to play the following week.

“So can we just scrap it? Because it’s one of the great grey areas in football.

“Either just have five on the bench or bring back the ridiculous normal sub, where you can use as a tactic and bring on whenever you like, it just means that player can’t come back on.”

After the completion of round 9, there was a total of 107 substitutes from the 18 teams, with Carlton, Hawthorn and North Melbourne equal-high on eight subs out of the possible nine rounds.

What is the AFL’s medical sub rule?

The introduction of the medical sub in the AFL was meant to provide clubs reprieve when a player of theirs was struck down by injury and ruled out of the game, allowing the 23rd player to take the field.

Club doctors were given the duty to protect the player, putting their health first, despite the desire to get back on the field and help the team.

Under AFL legislation, the rule was brought in under the assumption that “due to the nature of the injury sustained, it is reasonably determined the player will be medically unfit to participate in any match for at least the next 12 days.”

As a part of the process, the clubs must provide a medical certificate that is approved by the AFL to ensure the player’s wellbeing is put above all else.

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