The AFL is always concerned about the look of its game and constantly tinkers with the rules to make it fairer, cleaner, safer, more free-flowing and attractive – often with mixed results. The decision to introduce a substitute instead of the traditional fourth interchange player in 2011 was done primarily in the interests of fairness. The league suggested that a team that lost a player to injury early in a match could be out-rotated into fatigue by a side with four fit interchange players. The rule was then adjusted in 2013 to allow the nominated sub to enter as a temporary interchange player for 20 minutes while a concussion assessment on an injured player took place, with the interchange turning into a substitution for the remainder of the game if the player failed a concussion assessment. For various reasons, the rule is unpopular with both coaches and players, with many now calling for a reversion back to four interchange players. Should we listen to the coaches and players? Is it time to scrub the sub? For Why is the rule so unpopular with coaches and players? Some coaches argue that they spend an inordinate amount of time tactically working out when to use the sub and which player to sub off, while others believe players can't maintain match fitness if used as the substitute in multiple weeks. Prior to its introduction there was also talk of second ruckmen being eliminated from the game. Coaches also argue that since the number of interchanges is now capped at 120, there is no need for the sub rule to prevent teams from being out-rotated. Other former players have also complained that they did not like the fact that players were 'racking up AFL games by playing a quarter of footy'. The AFL Players Association has also come out strongly against the rule, saying it is very unpopular with players as they feel the green vest carries a stigma with it, and that they hate being dragged and put in the red vest. Then there is the problem with actually wearing the vests themselves where players with injured shoulders and arms are forced to endure discomfort trying to put the thing on. Commentators have also suggested the green vest is a 'bad look' for players running onto the ground and warming up at the start of a match. Against The sub rule was introduced in 2011 to address coaches' complaints that an early injury made winning games almost impossible. As AFL director of football Mark Evans explained: "If you lost a player early in a game, then the other team had a chance to just out-rotate you and most likely go on to win. Since the sub rule has come in, that has dropped off quite dramatically." Even with the cap on rotations, having a limited number of them, whether it is 120, 100 or 80, shared by four interchange players will still always give an advantage over a team with only three or two. You are still down a player. The sub rule lessens this advantage by having the same number of players on both sides sharing the rotations. On another crucial point, chief executive of the AFL doctors' association, Dr Hugh Seward, has said the substitute rule actually works very well in terms of player welfare. While doctors are undertaking the concussion assessment of a player, their team is not disadvantaged by being one player down in terms of rotations. The less pressure there is put on medical decision-making to get a player back out onto the ground, the greater the likelihood of an accurate, risk-free conclusion on a player's state of health, which has to be better for both players and doctors. Seward reiterated: "The substitution has been introduced for medical reasons and we support its use because our emphasis is on the medical benefits." The AFL has been praised as a world leader for introducing this 20-minute window for concussion testing. The sub rule allows teams to handily ease players returning from long-term injury back into the action, and can even help prolong the careers of ageing players. Bulldogs forward Daniel Giansiracusa played his last season as a 'super sub', coming off the bench to snag late goals. He would have languished in the twos or retired earlier if not for the sub rule. Our verdict Basically, the coaches and players don't like the substitute rule but have produced few, if any, credible arguments as to why it should be removed. If the AFL drops the sub rule, what exactly are the coaches going to do when they go down a player early in a game? They will get angry, that's what, because they will be down an interchange and at a disadvantage, even with a cap on rotations. And what about when a player cops a knock to the head and goes off to be tested for concussion? Will doctors feel under pressure to get possibly concussed players back on the field quickly? You bet they will. But if the AFL allows 'free' extra interchanges while a player is being tested to combat this, we could also easily face the same situation the NRL is having to deal with now, where teams are being suspected of taking off players who aren't even concussed for checks, and thus grabbing extra interchange rotations. We can hear the coaches' complaints already.