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EXCLUSIVE | AFL instructs umpires to make significant holding the ball adjustment


The AFL has instructed its umpires to immediately shorten the “reasonable time” component of holding the ball in a rare in-season rule change.

Clubs were on Tuesday night informed of the interpretation adjustment after weeks of criticism from players, coaches and fans.

In a memo seen by, the AFL told clubs that its umpires had been coached around tightening reasonable time.

The change seeks to bring umpiring into line with the demands of the match review officer and the tribunal when it comes to dangerous tackles.

“The purpose of this note is to share with you the coaching that our umpires received today on holding the ball clarification and one aspect of holding the ball, which is reasonable time,” the AFL wrote.

“It has become clearer during 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 not using excessive force.

“Consequently, we are seeing players holding onto the ball slightly longer, challenging the definition of reasonable time.

“We are grateful to the players adapting to these rules and also to the coaches for coaching the players to tackle in this manner as it is important that we continue to protect the health and safety of the players.”

Umpires training was this week attended by members of the All-Australian committee who engaged in conversation with coaches and the league executive.

Clubs and players will now be put on notice in the coming weeks as officials look to blow the whistle faster when players are tackled.

It comes after Essendon coach Brad Scott told AFL360 on Monday night: “I think the players are in an incredibly difficult position at the moment.

“The tribunal have clearly said that if you pin the ball carrier’s arm like Mac Andrew does here, if he takes him to ground and Charlie Curnow’s head hits the ground, that’s a dangerous tackle.

“So he can’t take him to ground, but he’s got to stop him from disposing of the ball so I’m not sure how he does that, it’s a real coaching challenge at the moment.”

Opposing coaches Michael Voss and Damien Hardwick were left confused on Sunday over the lack of holding the ball frees given in Carlton’s win over the Gold Coast.

“We’ll follow some up and I don’t say that often,” Voss said after the Blues’ 29-point win.

Hardwick said: “There’s 131 effective tackles today and there were four holding-the-balls for both sides.”


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