Fremantle’s Aaron Sandilands doesn’t expect the AFL’s new interchange rules to impact on specialist ruckmen, but the All Australian is still preparing to spend more time forward in 2011.

With new rules allowing just three interchange players – and one substitute, who can permanently replace a player at any stage of a game – bench rotations are certain to dip this season.

It will likely mean more minutes on the ground for Sandilands, who averaged 88 per cent game time in 2010, but less time in the demanding ruck role.

Easing the load will be former Crow Jon Griffin and third-year ruckman Zac Clarke, who has been a star on the track this pre-season.

“We’ve had ‘Griffo’ come in now [and] Zac Clarke’s taking big steps and training really well, so I can see those guys getting a lot of games this year,” Sandilands said from Fremantle’s training camp in Perth’s northern suburbs.

“Hopefully I can spend a little bit more time forward and those guys can spend a bit of time in the middle.

“I think each side’s going to play it differently with the interchange rules, but I don’t think it’s going to affect the ruck whatsoever.

“We’ve got two or three quality big men that can play in the ruck now, so it gives us a lot more options.”

Sandilands made a slow start to the pre-season after injuring his left knee during Fremantle’s breakthrough 2010 finals series.

However, he said he was now in full training and fitness would not prevent him from playing in Fremantle’s NAB Cup opener against West Coast and Hawthorn at Patersons Stadium on February 13.

“The knee feels really good [and] I’m starting to get a bit of fitness back, so I’m really looking forward to the footy season starting,” he said.

Fremantle launched a three-day training camp at Ern Halliday Recreation Camp on Wednesday, with players taking part in a variety of challenging team-building drills.

Sandilands, who said the single bunk beds at the camp were likely to cramp his 211cm frame, also addressed concerns that the AFL’s official airline deal with Virgin could do likewise to tall travelling players.

The AFL Players’ Association has queried the League’s decision to switch from Qantas, but Sandilands said he was not worried about flying with Virgin in 2011.

“I think the AFL will sort that side of things out with the seating arrangements,” he said.

“Generally when you get the exit row you get that little bit of extra space and you can get up and walk around the plane. As long as you get those sorts of seats there’s no problems.”

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