AFL coaches pleased with holding-the-ball clarification

Shayne Hope |

AFL coaches Michael Voss and Brad Scott are satisfied with the clarification offered by league officials this week following some initial confusion around the mid-season holding-the-ball rule tweak.

Voss was one of the chief agitators for change to the rule, which was delivered last week when the league instructed umpires to tighten the “reasonable time” and “no genuine attempt” components.

The tightening resulted in a spike in holding-the-ball free kicks paid – up 41 per cent to an average of 11.6 across the seven matches in round 12.

It was a significant rise on the average of 8.2 holding-the-ball free kicks paid across all games played earlier in the season.

The umpires’ application of the tightened rule received a mixed response from coaches over the weekend.

But Essendon coach Scott said the umpiring department had given the Bombers “really helpful” clarification around the new interpretation in recent days.

“They gave us five examples of correct decisions and an explanation as to why they were paid,” Scott told reporters on Thursday.

“You can debate your opinion of the rule, but that’s not of interest to us.

“What’s of interest to us is the AFL and the umpires’ interpretation of the rule and how they’re going to adjudicate it.

“Those five examples gave us great clarification.”

Matt Rowell tackles Sam Durham.
The Suns’ Matt Rowell makes a tackle on Essendon’s Sam Durham. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

Scott, the AFL’s football boss before taking up his Essendon role, called on the league to make holding-the-ball explanations available to fans.

“Players and coaches can know it, but the fans have got to know too,” he said.

“It’s very frustrating when the fans don’t know what is holding-the-ball and what isn’t.

“The five examples I saw this morning, I’d like everyone to see.”

Carlton coach Voss, whose side faces Scott’s Essendon on Sunday night, said the Blues had also made contact with the league and received greater clarity on the new interpretations.

“Clearly the take is it’s going to be hotter on holding-the-ball, so I think we can expect that,” Carlton coach Voss said on Thursday.

“We want to operate within (the rules), and if they’re the changes that need to be made and it makes it better for our game, then so be it.

“After a couple of weeks, when teams are starting to get a bit of an idea on how it’s going to be interpreted, then players are generally pretty good at being able to adapt.”

North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson watched the new interpretations put into practice last week while his side had a mid-season bye.

“I was expecting perhaps an overreaction more than anything,” Clarkson said.

“But whilst I noticed it was a productive and pleasing change, I didn’t think it was over the top.

“I didn’t think it significantly influenced games and I didn’t see any players, commentators or supporters getting overly frustrated with just a little bit of a tweak to it.

“I think that’s a productive thing for the game.”