AFL to trial the name game

What’s in a name? Well, the AFL will find out this weekend when all players have their names printed above their jumper number in a league first.

Naturally, there was one name that was too long to fit. Sydney’s Lewis Roberts-Thomson will have his abbreviated to LRT. But Greater Western Sydney's Will Hoskin-Elliott will just fit, and will be the longest.

Clubs have pushed for the trial for some time, and it could eventually be a money-spinner.

Club apparel with names and numbers, such as training tops and T-shirts, have been available for some time but, if successful, added sales of the official guernsey, as is the case in American sports, could be a popular new market.

In the meantime, the AFL hopes the names will help spectators identify players, particularly those in the northern markets.

"It’s been something that we have discussed many times over the years as to whether this is a good idea or a bad idea,'' AFL operations boss Mark Evans said.

"Clubs have been coming to us for a while asking us to consider this idea based on the fact there are lots of young people and new people to our game who they think could have some benefit by being able to recognise names.''

Depending on the feedback, names could be introduced on a more permanent basis as early as next season.

Meanwhile, Evans has admitted the surface at Canberra's Manuka Oval was not up to standard last Saturday for the clash between Greater Western Sydney and the Western Bulldogs, despite passing a safety test.

The oval, having been top-dressed with a layer of sand after the Sheffield Shield final a fortnight ago, led to unusual errors from both teams, and players finished the match with abrasions because of the rough surface.

"It's quite clear from our point of view it was deemed safe to play," Evans said. "But it's a long way short of the standards that we want for an AFL match, a long way short of ideal, so we will address that with the venue.

"I don't think [the surface] was shifting. I think you saw a spray of sand. Now, that's safe to play, but there's a difference between safe to play and ideal to play. When the ball doesn't bounce up properly, players sliding and getting grazes on their knees, things like that [aren't ideal]. I think we need to have better standards of care for our grounds.''

This story AFL to trial the name game first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.