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AFL ball-tracking technology could be implemented for upcoming AFLW season

The AFL are so pleased with their ball-tracking technology trial in the VFL, that they are considering its introduction for the upcoming AFLW season.
Published on
July 6, 2024

The AFL’s ball-tracking technology has been trialled with such success on a weekly basis in the VFL the league is considering its introduction for the upcoming AFLW season.

The technology has come a long way since the first Sherrin with a microchip implanted into the football exploded as it was bounced, deflating before it could be used in a trial.

The Herald Sun understands the AFL is now in its seventh version of the technology, which in its most recent iteration has gone from wired charging of the microchip to wireless charging.

AFL executive football boss Laura Kane has led the implementation of the technology across 18 months and believes it can soon provide a seamless integration into goal-line and touched kick calls.

It will provide instantaneous feedback about whether a ball has touched the post, gone over the goal line, or flicked the fingers of a defender.

While the AFL had publicised its March VFL trial it has now been used most weeks across the VFL, and is regularly used in AFL training sessions and VFL games.

The AFLW does not currently use a video review system because the second-tier venues it uses for women’s football do not have hardwired cameras leading into the AFL Arc.

But the league could decide to use the ball-tracking technology – which requires extra cameras at venues – as the perfect introduction to AFL football in the AFLW season starting on the last weekend of August.

If used successfully, it would then be used in the 2025 men’s AFL season.

AFL spokesman Jay Allen told the Herald Sun the trials to date had been very encouraging.

He said the ball tracking technology would not be introduced until ready but that the AFL continued to test it at both the VFL and VFLW level and in the lab.

Those microchips weigh only a few grams so footballers cannot feel any difference as they use the balls in trials, with the cutting-edge balls weighing exactly the same as a normal Sherrin.

Part of the brief was to ensure the ball still performs at its usual levels, with strong progress on that front.

The league developed and tested its smart ball in conjunction with Sherrin, tech company Sportable, Victoria University and graphics partner Intaneous.

The ball tracking technology has myriad applications including measuring the speed, trajectory and distance of a kick but its biggest benefit will be in goal-line decisions.

The live data taken from the ball will be able to show whether it skimmed the post or went over the goal line with perfect accuracy and in real time. When that technology is ready it will also be decision time for the AFL about how much it is involved in games. The current video system does not permit the ARC bunker to rule on whether players kick the ball from outside the boundary line within the 50m arc.

Only touched balls kicked at goal are subject to review. But with more accurate technology there might be calls for greater involvement, with Tigers fans upset about Harry McKay’s touched kick to the square on Sunday, which was marked for a Blues score. The league will have the information to rule quickly on touched balls which are not scoring shots but is likely to hasten slowly with its technology.

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