During the off-season before Season 2011, the footy writers were focussing on 5 main stories; daily puff-pieces around their hoped-for resurgence of the Essendon Football Club, the potential decline of Geelong, the St Kilda 'Photo' scandal, the Chris Judd - Rebecca Twigley wedding, and finally, the impact of the new 'Substitute' rule for 2011.

Clearly the most interesting of these issues as far as football goes, the substitute rule represented the first change of interchange rules since the introduction of the 4th interchange player (and thus a squad of 22) since 1998. Upon announcement, the AFL had determined that the 22nd place in the team - the Substitute - would be able to play only as a permanent replacement of an earlier player, who would therefore not be allowed back on the field. The measure was ostensibly designed to slow the game down a little, after a series of changes over the previous decade designed to do the opposite.

The selection of, and utilisation, would therefore be an interesting tactical ploy for each team. Many pundits figured that the second ruckman might find it difficult to get a game in this era of continuous running.

The Substitute 'philosophy' takes us back to a rule used between 1930 and 1978, where the first (and later second) interchange player was a permanent change during a game. Prior to the introduction, all 18 players (20 for 1897-1898) were fixed and could not be replaced, irrespective of injury or fitness. And it is only since 1978 where a true interchange ability had been allowed. A chronology of the changes over the last century of football is provided below:

Change of Interchange
Year / SeasonPlayers on Field Interchange Restrictions
1897 20 Nil N/A
1899 18 Nil N/A
1930 18 1 - the 19th Man 19th man can replace player at any time - injured player cannot return to the field
1946 18 2 20th man added to expand bench
1978 18 2 19th / 20th man used as interchange
1994 18 3 Introduction of third interchange player
1998 18 4 Introduction of fourth interchange player
2011 18 4 3 Interchange; One substitute. Player replaced by sub cannot return.

The 19th Man - the very first 'Substitute' - first entered football in Season 1930. Carlton's first 19th Man was Jim Crowe, who in the last quarter of Round 1 would be brought on to replace Fred Gilby who had injured a leg. Crowe played 83 games for Carlton, but at the peak of his career, he walked from Princes Park after an apparent dispute over his role in the team, and two years later, played in a Premiership side for Collingwood. Incidentally, in the same round, future Blue Jack Carney would also be Geelong's first Substitute.

At the time, Carlton - like most League clubs - didn’t pay match payments to the 19th man if he didn’t play and that game didn’t count toward their senior record, (but has since fallen in line with the current League records that includes these games, when the player didn’t enter the playing field during the game). Soon players found ways to be injured in the last moments of the game to enable their mate to replace them and thus be paid.

Carlton’s last ‘solo’ 19th man was Charlie McInnes in the Grand Final, 1945 victory against South Melbourne in the “Blood Bath” premiership at Princes Park, before the introduction of the 20th man. In this role, McInnes would feature in both of Carlton's 1938 and 1945 Premierships.

Selection from the bench was also tracked historically, with the Blueseum featuring bench 'warming' data back to 1930! In much the same way, the Blueseum intends to track the use of the 'Substitute' as the rule unfolds in Season 2011, and beyond. Of particular trivia interest was Carlton's first Sub for Round 1 in Kane Lucas, who was subbed in for the concussed Jarrad Waite...

Most Proficient Bench Warmer


"Pioneer on the Pine", Russell Holmesby, Inside Football, 2010