AFL make big change after fierce backlash

AFL Rd 11 -  Carlton v Gold Coast
This tackle created mass confusion in the AFL (Photo by Josh Chadwick/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

The AFL “had to” react to the outcry from several coaches over the holding the ball rule but Western Bulldogs mentor Luke Beveridge says it’s “not going to amount to much” and he won’t be telling his players to change.

Tackled players will be given less time to dispose of the ball correctly after the AFL directed an adjustment from umpires with a memo, and examples, sent to all clubs confirming the tweak which has come about after a shift in tackling technique from players to avoid dangerous incidents.

Players had reduced the amount of times they had been tackling opponents to the ground, instead often holding them up and swinging them around, enabling tackled players to still try and dispose of the ball.

But the extra time given by umpires for those often clumsy disposals, and the lack of rewards for tacklers, had incensed coaches and players.

Both Carlton boss Michael Voss and his Gold Coast counterpart Damien Hardwick voiced their concerns after the teams played last week after there were 131 effective tackles today and “four holding the balls for both sides” according to the Suns coach.

AFL Rd 11 -  Carlton v Gold Coast
Charlie Curnow was given an eternity to dispose of the ball in this tackle. (Photo by Josh Chadwick/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

In a significant in-season rule change, the league has now instructed umpires to reduce the amount of “reasonable time” players have to kick or handball the footy.

“The AFL wrote to clubs yesterday following feedback received over a few weeks regarding the interpretation of holding the ball and how it is being officiated,” a league statement confirmed.

“It has become clearer throughout the season that in discharging their duty of care whilst executing a tackle, tacklers are positively electing not to take tackled players to ground in the tackle or are generally doing so in a reasonable way including by not using excessive force. As a consequence, we are seeing players hold onto the ball slightly longer and challenging the definition of “reasonable time”.

“Our umpires are clear on the interpretation of holding the ball and it continues to be a focus of umpire coaching each week. We want to ensure our Clubs, Coaches and “Players understand the rules and how they are being officiated.”

Examples were also provided to clubs clarifying the “reasonable time” aspect of holding the ball with five examples in the video clips the subject of umpire training this week and were shared with football departments and coaches.

But Beveridge said he wouldn’t want his players to be preoccupied by the shift and that the umpires would still have a hard job to adjudicate the rule.

“I don’t think it’s going to amount to much,” he said on Wednesday, just as the adjustment was revealed.

“It might happen three or four times a game. It’s one of those things we can’t get too agitated about it. It’s a microcosm of what goes in games, it’s not a big deal for me.

“With any of the adjudications, I’m just a swings and roundabouts guy, there are some you get a bit frustrated with, some you could be a bit fortunate with. What comes around come around and I still think it’s going to be extremely hard for the umpires to get this right.

“We won’t train it any differently than we have over the last two months. I’ve just told players to be aware if there’s no prior opportunity, the whistle might be blown sooner. Just be mindful some of the tackles are going for too long, but don’t change.”