What's new for the AFL season in 2022: rules, captains, stadiums, fixture

crowd at sports game cheering

Alice Piper

Posted March 10, 2022

From stadium upgrades to Mason Cox’s new sunnies, check out what's new ahead of the opening bounce of the 2022 AFL season.

There is something special that happens to Melbourne in the lead up to AFL season; the Club scarves come out, pubs get the big screens ready, and the atmosphere is one of excitement, anticipation, and comradery.  

As the 2020 and 2021 seasons were marred by COVID-19 lockdowns, restrictions, and relocations, it has been some time since many Victorian footy fans have been able to attend a game.  

So, before you make your way to the footy, you should expect a few notable changes to our great game and its spectacular stage. 

The new AFL season: what's changing in 2022

Great Southern Stand name change

In the wake of the great Shane Warne’s passing earlier this month, the AFL will be immortalising his name by renaming the MCG’s Great Southern Stand the S.K Warne Stand. 

Born and raised in Melbourne, and perhaps the greatest Victorian sportsman of all-time, this tribute will be a permanent feature at the MCG, honouring the legend who famously took his 700th wicket in that very spot.  

Spectators headed to the MCG can also visit his statue outside of Gate 2.

Marvel Stadium upgrade 

When St Kilda and Collingwood fans flock to Marvel Stadium on March 18, things will look a little different. 

In what is set to be a $225 million redevelopment to the stadium - the first upgrades since the stadium opened in 2000 - there will be two new high-definition scoreboards hanging at both the Coventry and Lockett ends of the ground, as well as new lighting and a host of other upgrades to come soon.  

The concourse of the stadium, opposite the intersection from Spencer Street and Bourke Street, will be renovated to create a year-round sport and entertainment hub.


two men outside stadium

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan announced a raft of changes to Marvel Stadium as part of a $225 million redevelopment. Image: Getty

MCG hospitality changes

In a move that has divided footy fans, the menu on offer at the MCG is set for a major overhaul. 

Some fans have already been spitting chips with the announcement that crowd-favourites Red Rooster and Crust will no longer be taking up residency inside the MCG, and will be replaced by Royal Stacks Burgers and Gami Chicken. 

Things will also look a little different in the MCC Committee, with celebrity chef Guy Grossi opening a new restaurant and turning the prestigious room into a mini-Italian restaurant, set to be used for President’s lunches and functions.  

AFL fixture changes

The season-opening blockbuster for the better part of a decade has been played between Carlton and Richmond. To kick off the 2022 season, however, the Blues and Tigers have been bumped to the second match of the season to make way for a Grand Final rematch between Melbourne and Bulldogs on Wednesday March 16. 

The 2022 AFL fixture will also see a rare Friday night double-header with Melbourne and Essendon playing at the MCG, at the same time Adelaide and Port Adelaide clash at Adelaide Oval. 

Thursday nights are also set to become primetime viewing, with the first five rounds featuring epic matches with Essendon and Collingwood playing at the MCG, then followed by Hawthorn and Sydney across the ditch in Launceston.  

AFL CEO, Gill McLachlan said: "You can take to the bank the fixture and the schedule that is outlined, unless something drastic happens, we’re going on as fixtured.”


sportsmen shaking hands

Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs will open the 2022 season with a grand final rematch. Image: Getty

New AFL team captains

For the first time in the club’s history, the Richmond Football Club will have joint skippers, with Dylan Grimes and Toby Nankervis taking the reins.  

Richmond legend Trent Cotchin hasn’t retired though, the triple-premiership player has simply stood down from a nine-year captaincy role (the club’s longest in history), with Richmond General Manager of Football Performance Tim Livingstone saying, “having co-captains speaks to the team’s depth of leadership and together they will serve the overall system of the Club very well”. 

Carlton Football Club also have a new leadership team, with Patrick Cripps remaining as Captain, while new additions Sam Walsh and Jacob Weitering will serve as co vice-captains.  

North Melbourne has added two new players to the leadership team, Aidan Corr and Nick Larkey, while at the Western Bulldogs, Jack McRae steps in as vice-captain, replacing Mitch Wallis in a new-look leadership side. 

Crackdown on AFL rules  

There is set to be a tighter interpretation on rules such as time delays and holding the ball following in-depth discussions between AFL executives and managers. 

Players caught deliberately delaying play will be penalised by umpires, rewarding the opposition team with a free kick or 50m penalty. There will also be no ‘time warning’ to players engaging in time wasting. 

Umpires will also be less tolerant towards 'disrepect' from players in the 2022 season with a crackdown on umpire abuse - a move that has been described as'overdue' by AFL Umpires Association chief Rob Kerr.

The Melbourne Football Club got a taste of the crackdown during their pre-season clash with Carlton, having given away eight 50m penalties.

Players will also be penalised for not immediately and correctly disposing of the football when being held, or when they’ve had prior opportunity and chosen not to act.  


man wearing sunglasses

Collingwood's Mason Cox to debut prescription sunglasses. Image: Getty

Mason Cox’s prescriptions sunglasses

In what will be a first on the AFL field, Collingwood star Mason Cox will don prescription sunglasses in the forward line. 

The American-born goal kicker has suffered career-threatening eye injuries over the years, requiring six different surgeries – three on his left eye, two on his right, as well as cataract surgery. 

At one point, two surgeries left Cox almost legally-blind for a short period in 2019, where he then spent two weeks in a dark room positioned on his back for 45 minutes of every hour, unable to move, watch TV, or use his phone. 

After trailing the eyewear over the pre-season, the AFL approved their use in official matches, allowing Cox to debut the fresh look in the pre-season. 

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