New rules for 2022
The stand rule
First introduced for the 2021 AFL season, it was created too late in the AFLW pre-season to be adopted by the women's competition until 2022. The player on the mark is unable to move laterally on their line, once set by the umpire, who says "stand". Jumping on the spot is permitted, but moving sideways is not, until the umpire calls "play on".
After a behind, a player no longer needs to ‘kick-in’ to themselves to play on out of the goalsquare. The player on the mark will now be 15m from the top of the goalsquare – this was initially 5m, then 10m.
Boundary throw-ins happen 10m inside the boundary line, with the aim of landing approximately 25m into the field of play. The aim of this is to create more space for players either side of the contest and minimise secondary stoppages.
Last disposal between the arcs
If the ball goes out of bounds between the forward and defensive 50 arcs as a result of a kick or handball, the opposing team will receive a free kick where the ball crossed the line. If it is not clear who touched the ball last, it is thrown in. This rule was introduced to reduce congestion and secondary stoppages.
Centre bounce 5-6-5
Just like the AFL has a 6-6-6 rule, there's a slightly tweaked version at AFLW level due to having 16 players on the field. At centre bounces (or ball-ups), each team must have five forwards and five defenders inside their respective 50m arcs. Three midfielders plus the ruck will be in the middle of the ground, with a winger somewhere on the long side of the centre square (technically a rectangle). A first infraction will result in a warning, but a second will be a free kick to the opposing side's ruck.
On the clock
These games are short, sharp and action-packed. The quarters run for 15 minutes apiece, with time on called during stoppages in the last two minutes of each term (about 20 minutes all up). When you add in the breaks between every quarter, the whole match is done and dusted in two hours.
Each team fields 16 a side, with the aim of improving the flow of the game and reducing congestion. Given games are played in summer, five players sit on the bench (up from four in the AFL), and there is no cap on the number of interchange rotations.
It's a little difficult to tell from the stands, but at size four, the ball is a little smaller than the size five one used in the AFL competition. Analysis has shown the slightly smaller ball is easier for women to mark.
Bye bye, bounce
The traditional bounce has been "bounced" out, with the smaller ball meaning umpires throw up the ball in the centre and around the ground.
General football rules
Marks or free kicks in deep defensive 50
If a defender takes a mark, or gets a free kick, within nine metres of their own goal, then the player from the attacking team must stand the mark in line with the top of the goalsquare. This gives the defender a bit more room to run and create.
If paid a 50m penalty, the player with the ball can immediately advance the mark by 50m without waiting for the umpire, and restart play. The player on the mark cannot get in the way of the advancing player, or another 50m penalty will be paid.
Kicking for goal after the siren
If a player has taken a mark or been awarded a free kick just prior to the siren – whether it's the end of a quarter or the end of the game – they can now have a shot for goal using a checkside or snap kick. The player needs to ensure they end up in line with the player on the mark when they kick the ball, but can start on an angle.
The "hands in the back" rule interpretation changed in 2019, meaning a player can now hold their ground by placing their hands in the back of their opponent in a marking contest. However, they can't push their opponent in the back.
Ruck contests – prior opportunity
Another change in 2019. Rucks can now take possession when contesting a bounce, ball-up or boundary throw-in and will not be regarded as having had prior opportunity. The ruck for each team will continue to nominate to the field umpire, to assist in blocking frees and preventing a third player up.