Longer quarters and less interchange could be a recipe for injury disaster this AFL season according to Patrick Dangerfield

Geelong superstar Patrick Dangerfield’s fears were realised last weekend and the president of the AFL Players Association has again raised his concerns over the impact of a return to 20 minute quarters.

Dangerfield said the spate of injuries in the one and only round of full-scale AFL pre-season matches was “definitely a concern” with reduced interchanges and less club staff adding to his worries for the impact changes will have on the season.

Brisbane’s Cam Rayner and Western Bulldogs duo Aaron Naughton and Hayden Crozier were among those who went down across the weekend.

In the COVID-19 impacted season, quarters were reduced to 16 minutes, and each team only played 17 games in the home and away season.

In 2021, the AFL has returned to 20 minutes plus time-on, with interchange rotations reduced from 90 per match to 75.

Dangerfield, who was re-elected president of the AFLPA on Tuesday night, had already expressed concerns about the impact of the changes and said the evidence from nine games over the long weekend reinforced his worries.

“It’s definitely a concern I thought about as the injury toll continued to rise throughout the weekend,” he said on Wednesday.

“It’s the accumulation over the pre-season that can be the concern, because it’s been a shortened pre-season for some, and for others up to five or six weeks longer. Teams are in a different phase of their training.

“I think it’s a big ask to go from the shortened games (in 2020) to what we experienced on the weekend. It felt like a really long time on your feet.

“With reduced personnel in footy departments it’s going to be a challenge going forward. There’s going to be challenges with keeping everyone on the track.”

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Dangerfield said some players would have to get used to not going off the ground at all during quarters, which can run beyond 25 minutes.

“That hasn’t happened in their career. That’s a significant change,” he told SEN.

“Really we do need a greater sample size before we all jump up and start screaming .. make concrete judgment on the changes, the increased game time form what it was, reduced rotations and all that sort of thing.”

“But you want your best players and when there are significant injuries the thought (about the changes) runs through your head.”

Dangerfield said the changes also made it impossible for the AFL to once again run with the “festival of footy” as it did in 2020, with games every night across a short period.

The AFL is yet to lock in times and dates for games beyond Round 5, but Dangerfield said short breaks were off the table.

“That’s just not possible now because of the set-up, from what we have gone to now, how long the games are and the reduced rotations,” he said.

“I really enjoyed the festival of footy last year, but it makes it near on impossible, having experienced the length of the game on the weekend, particularly if you have rising injuries. “

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