The AFL clash policy is in need of address, as demonstrated in multiple cases over round 12. Games last weekend highlighted the inconsistencies in an AFL policy which is likely to infuriate the game’s coaches, players and supporters alike.

Friday night saw an entertaining contest between Carlton and Hawthorn, which has raised a number of issues since. While coach Mick Malthouse seemed to have every excuse under the sun for Carlton’s loss, the argument regarding the colour of the Hawthorn trainers is not a moot point.

Two instances in the third quarter, when Carlton were under siege, saw Heath Scotland and Kane Lucas kick to who they believed was a free teammate. Given the dark colours and the high-pressure situation, Scotland and Lucas simply looked for the apparent navy blue and bombed it towards them. Given the reaction of the crowd, it seemed as though they thought it was a player, until they saw the man run straight passed the ball and to a Hawthorn player. Frustration arose when Lucas kicked it to the trainer merely minutes after Scotland had done so, and clearly the confusion should not have even been an issue in the first place.

This issue has already occurred this season, where Gold Coast runners have had to change their colours, given the runner uniform was too similar to the Gold Coast guernsey itself. Surely the AFL should have seen this problem prior to the game, and ensured that Hawthorn staff wore light colours to make sure there was no clash.

Why the Hawks were wearing their predominantly brown guernsey also deserves to be brought into question, especially since they wore their clash kit last season. Further questions arise, such as why the AFL decided that there was a clash one season, but not the next, as well as if the Hawks were to wear their traditional colours, why not wear the yellow on brown jumper, which does not result in a clash?

While the Carlton players kicking it out to a Hawthorn trainer obviously did not cost the Blues the game, it was quite easily avoidable. In a post-match interview, an angry Malthouse said that he was “confused and concerned that we cannot get the colours right.” Malthouse said a number of things on Friday night that may or may not have been attributable to the loss, but his concerns regarding the clash policy have merit.

Given Carlton’s navy blue, it would make sense that to avoid total confusion, a light colour be adopted for the opposition, as well as in cases of other ‘dark’ teams. It defies belief that something as simple as trainer colours has to be addressed from the weekend, especially given that the colours of team runners has also had to be addressed this season.

The game the following day saw another point be raised regarding the clash policy, although it has not been as publicised as the trainer incident. Richmond and Adelaide faced off on Saturday afternoon, where the Crows wore their white clash kit. However, when the two teams met at AAMI Stadium last season, both teams wore their home guernseys, given that Richmond do not have a proper clash guernsey of their own.

This again raises more questions, such as why Richmond are exempt from a policy when clearly the AFL has decided that there are some teams that clash with the Tigers’ guernsey. The 2012 season showed the farce that is the clash policy, where Richmond and Essendon faced each other twice. In Essendon’s home game – Dreamtime at the ‘G – both teams wore their normal guernseys. But Richmond’s home game in round 22 saw the Bombers wearing their grey clash kit; judging by that, it seems whether or not a team is at ‘home’ determines whether there is a clash or not.

Monday night football a few weeks ago also displayed Richmond’s exemption from the clash policy to be troublesome. Watching the West Coast vs. Richmond match on television, it was at times difficult to determine which team was which. Traditionalists have cited that clash jumpers are not needed and go against the ‘brand’ of the club; Greg Swann said as much in 2008, where he said that Carlton were nothing less than “the navy blues”.

However, the argument that a clash jumper takes away from the occasion or the club itself is not a valid point. Rivalries in international sport such as Liverpool and Manchester United have seen both clubs wear ‘alternative’ kits, given both clubs wear red. Despite this, the rivalry and history remains one of the strongest in international football and sport itself.

The defiance of Richmond must be rectified by the AFL. The fact that teams can apparently be clash dependent on what year it is or what state the game is played in is farcical. Whether it is a player, trainer or doctor involved, the AFL clash policy is in need of address to ensure that a case of mistaken identity, as seen on Friday night, is not the case any more.


  1. Good article Christian,

    The issue of home/away/clash strips definitely needs to be re-discussed. However I am of the opinion that a more important discussion needs to be held around non-playing staff entering the field of play.

    Given the high bench rotations we now see, one has to wonder what purpose the trainers/runners serve anymore. Re hydration and tactics can be imparted at any of the numerous pit stops players now make through each quarter.
    If you want messages passed to players on the field, this responsibility should fall to players coming off the bench.
    Or if they really want water they can grab a sip off a trainer sitting outside the field of play around the ground during a break in play.

    If a player requires medical attention (ie clearly cannot pick themselves up and get themselves to the bench) then doctors should only be allowed on the field of play only after an umpire calls time off. This is the case in pretty much every sport I can think of.

    There was a time when the game was played at a pace which allowed trainers etc on the ground without getting in the way, however the game has evolved to be played at such a speed that this is no longer feasible.

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