AFL coaches Voss, Hardwick endorse holding rule change

Steve Larkin and Murray Wenzel |

Gold Coast coach Damien Hardwick can see the spin-offs, applauding the AFL’s holding-the-ball rule change even if it curbs the influence of his midfield star.

Hardwick and Carlton coach Michael Voss were among coaches who agitated for change to the rule, which was delivered midweek by the AFL.

Umpires have been instructed to reduce the time given to players to dispose of the ball when tackled.

And Voss says on the evidence of Carlton’s win against Port Adelaide on Thursday night, watched intently by Hardwick, the change has been instantly justified.

About half-a-dozen holding-the-ball free kicks were paid in a match featuring 131 tackles.

Only two of those decisions were under the fresh interpretation – a Matthew Owies tackle on Port’s Kane Farrell and an Aliir Aliir tackle on Carlton’s Charlie Curnow.

“There was a couple – and I thought for the better,” Voss said post-game.

“I thought there was one that Charlie, it was against him and … I just sort of thought that was safer for the player.

” … I am only talking about prior (opportunity) here.

“And I think there was a Matty Owies one as well that I thought ‘that was how it should be adjudicated’.

“In the current landscape of AFL football and with all the current things that are really important to us that we say are important to us, I thought those two decisions were correct as far as the prior opportunity goes.

“It was certainly closer to where I thought it should be.”

Some coaches including Hawthorn’s Sam Mitchell forecast teething problems with the tweak as umpires adjusted.

But Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley said he barely noticed any difference in Thursday night’s fixture.

Suns coach Hardwick was a keen observer, the three-time premiership mentor with Richmond agreeing with Voss.

“They did a good job,” he said of the umpires. 

“It was certainly noticeable they were blowing the whistle quicker.

“We want the players to take on the responsibility to move the ball on quicker … not hold onto it so long.

“The players soon learn (if they’re penalised); the more we can put the responsibility back on the players and off the umpires, that’s a good thing.”

He said star Suns midfielder Matt Rowell, the fastest man to 500 AFL tackles who is often taking on tacklers at clearances, would need to adapt in Sunday’s clash with Essendon.

“It will (impact him) but one thing Rowelly does well is he tries to move the ball on,” Hardwick said.

“He’s got great strength in the contest. 

“He knows now the time’s been shortened. It’s going to be a bit of suck it and see … but we still think he’ll be a dominant player with regard to the rule.”