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Gieschen: rule hasn't changed

Mitch Duncan is tackled by Hawthorn's Cyril Rioli.

Mitch Duncan is tackled by Hawthorn's Cyril Rioli. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

THE controversy over the free kick not paid to Hawthorn's Cyril Rioli in the dying seconds of last Friday night's Hawthorn-Geelong thriller continues to be the subject of vigorous debate, with the AFL denying the interpretation of the holding-the-ball rule has changed.

Hawthorn supporters are still livid that Rioli's tackle on Geelong's Mitch Duncan was not rewarded with a free kick, despite the Cat having taken several steps after receiving the ball and failing to get foot to ball as it spilled free.

With the Hawks leading by three points and just over a minute left, Rioli would have kicked for goal from only 30 metres out, directly in front, had the free been paid.

The Cats stole victory with Tom Hawkins' goal on the siren.

AFL umpires' director Jeff Gieschen last night defended the decision, claiming that Duncan had been blindsided by Rioli and hadn't been given prior opportunity.

"He's taken the ball, prepared, balanced, gone to kick, tried to do it quickly," Gieschen said. "He wasn't trying to take Rioli on, he was trying to get rid of the ball legitimately, so we're happy for the play-on call based around it being not a prior opportunity."

Collingwood captain Nick Maxwell weighed into the debate on Sunday when he claimed on Channel Seven's Game Day that similar scenarios this year suggested the interpretation of prior opportunity had changed.

"What I've noticed is it doesn't get paid as often this year," he said. "If someone is going into a kicking motion and it gets knocked out, that used to be dropping the ball if you didn't make contact with the foot, but I don't think it's umpired that way any more."

But Gieschen dismissed that suggestion. "Nothing has changed,'' he told The Age last night. ''Prior opportunity is interpretative. It's not just about how many steps they take, it's about whether he had any chance to dispose of the ball in a natural state, and in this case he hadn't.

"We think that prior opportunity, we've been really consistent with. I'd put it the other way and say that that is one area of holding-the-ball that we feel players understand really well. If they've had it [prior opportunity], unless they're blindsided, more often than not they get their kick or handball away."

Gieschen pointed out that umpires' coaches Rowan Sawers, Bryan Sheehan and Hayden Kennedy had also agreed with the call of play-on.

Gieschen, though, who did concede another critical free kick from last weekend, that paid to Collingwood's Harry O'Brien for alleged interference by St Kilda's Stephen Milne, was an error, was still explaining the Rioli decision to disgruntled Hawk fans on SEN yesterday.

"We can understand people thinking that way … but we've got to look at it totally objectively and unbiasedly," he said. "Duncan … was blindsided by Rioli when he took that ball, he turned one step, he took one more step to prepare to kick and then was tackled in the act of kicking. Did he try to take Rioli on? No, he didn't. Had he had the ball for a long time? No, he hadn't.

''Rioli effected a fantastic tackle, the ball was knocked free, and we were really comfortable it was a play-on call under those circumstances."


  • This rule has killed the game..Next time fellas leave the ball alone..if it is on the ground..don't go for it..if you do and another 3 blokes jump on will be pinged..What a joke of a rule..FIX IT.

    What a joke
    Date and time
    August 09, 2012, 8:02AM
    • There is no reward for a legitimately good tackle these days - but there is if you hang off the ball, wait for someone else to get it and then just lie on top of them so they can't possibly dispose of the ball. This is the worst AFL Administration ever and dwindling crowds are the result - true Aussie Rules fans despise you Deemtriou, Anderson, Geesh et al.

      Btw, was there on Friday night, and Hawks fans certainly shouldn't be complaining about the treatment they received from umpires across the course of the whole game! What was the free kick count, 25 - 14 or something, in a 1 goal game, that's a massive advantage.

      Go Blues
      Date and time
      August 09, 2012, 11:07AM
  • What a load of rubbish from the Geish and his Martian cohorts. It is not interpretative. If you have the ball, are tackled and don't dispose of it correctly then its a free kick to the tackler unless you have not had prior opportunity. Where is the word BLINDSIDED mentioned in the rule book. I am not a Hawthorn supporter and love seeing their supporters whinge about the Martians, but Geishen has proven his incompetence with his comments about this incident and should be stood down immediately. Get an experienced and respected umpire to headup the umpire department and we might see some consistency back in the application of the rules, and see the end of encouraged interpretations that is killing our great game.

    Date and time
    August 09, 2012, 8:05AM
    • I agree, what sort of defence is blindsided! Surely in a crowded forward line when the pressure has been high all game a player must expect to be tackled, and move the ball on. I must check the match stats to see if Mitch Duncan had more possessions than disposals, did the stats person award it as a kick or a hand ball? Even Gieschen must admit he had possession of the ball.
      He should have handballed, he had "opportunity" to handball. If there was not a target for a handball then that is reward for great pressure from the Hawks.
      I can understand people making mistakes, even umpires. But it is clear the AFL will not admit to a mistake if the result of a game had been affected.

      Up North
      Date and time
      August 09, 2012, 12:54PM
  • Both in his coaching at Richmond and now in charge of the umpires, Gieschen has always lacked logic and clarity of thought and process.

    He really should not be in this position, his lack of leadership levaes all the umpires (who have propably the most difficult officiating job in any sport) very exposed.

    Captain Grumpy
    Date and time
    August 09, 2012, 8:10AM
    • Boom-Boom............and I don't even follow the Hawks.

      Date and time
      August 09, 2012, 9:07AM
  • Hawk fans, get over it. You don't hear Cats fans complaining about the 2 SOFT frees given to you in the first quarter resulting in your only goals of the quarter. Stop whinging and live with the fact that the better side won on the night

    Date and time
    August 09, 2012, 8:14AM
    • And I don't hear Cats fans complaining about the SOFTEST FREES OF ALL that they got in Q3, not to mention the "we love you darling" treatment that J.Selwood gets every week.

      Date and time
      August 09, 2012, 9:54AM
  • Hawks supporters can bleed all they like about this. The first two goals they kicked were from frees awarded that were so soft they would have been play on in netball.

    i was there
    when the soft ones were paid
    Date and time
    August 09, 2012, 8:17AM
    • Wrong. Hawthorn's first goal was a handball to an unmarked Luke Breust. Get your facts straight.

      Date and time
      August 09, 2012, 9:55AM

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