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Pull your heads in, coaches tell players

The AFL had been concerned about players risking head injuries in attempts to draw free kicks.

The AFL had been concerned about players risking head injuries in attempts to draw free kicks.

The AFL says it has received strong backing from coaches for the introduction of the rule that discourages players from leading with their head to draw free kicks.

The AFL’s general manager of football, Mark Evans, said senior coaches had been supportive of the change in the rule, which Evans also sought to clarify, saying the onus of responsibility still lay with the tackler.

‘‘There was some very, very strong support from coaches,’’ said Evans, who announced the change as one of three significant rule changes to the laws of the game.

He said the new rule aimed at discouraging players leading with the head – an issue the AFL identified during the 2013 season – and was backed by members of the laws of the game committee and umpires.

The new rule is designed both to prevent players ducking into tackles and to drive their heads into the body of an opponent to draw a free kick.

Evans said there were two actions that the AFL was seeking to discourage via the rule change. One was ‘‘when a player clearly ducks his head into contact’’, and the other was when a player takes ‘‘a bent position and tries to push through an opponent – that’s what we’d like to discouragement, that movement’’.

The AFL had been concerned about players risking head injuries in attempts to draw free kicks.

In terms of ducking, the new rule simply states that, ‘‘where a player ducks into a tackle and is the cause of high contact, the umpire will call play on’’.

In the other instance, where a player drives his head into ‘‘a stationary or near-stationary player’’,  the one  who puts his head down and initiates the contact ‘‘shall be regarded as having had prior opportunity’’.

This means that ‘‘if legally tackled following this he will be required to legally dispose of the ball or he will be penalised’’.

But while the rule is a crackdown on ‘‘head-first’’ players who have exploited the successful ‘‘head-over-the-ball’’ rule – the one that placed a duty of care on the player who has an opponent crouched over the ball – Evans clarified the responsibility of the players in the contest.

‘‘The onus of responsibility is on the tackler,’’ he said.

The other two new rules focused on the consequences of bumping and on forceful contact below the knees.

In the latest revision to the bumping rule, a player who elects to bump will be reported/cited for rough conduct if there is a head clash, ‘‘and players will be instructed that a head clash should be reasonably foreseen when bumping’’.

There were instances last year when players, such as North Melbourne’s Lindsay Thomas, elected to bump and injured their opponent via a head clash. Thomas was not cited by the match review panel, on the strict letter of the previous law, even though his opponent, Collingwood’s Ben Reid, was concussed and left the field.

On the below-the-knees rule, there will be a free kick paid ‘‘where a player makes forceful contact below the knees or acts in a manner likely to cause injury, even if contact does not occur’’.

6 comments so far

  • I guess that means Joel Selwood will have to retire then

    Commenter
    Rusty
    Location
    Narre Warren
    Date and time
    December 20, 2013, 1:23AM
    • The "Ducking into a Tackle" is a good rule change... but will that have an impact on players who drop their knees when tackled around the shoulder which then moves the tacklers arm higher on their body and results in a free kick to them for over the shoulder contact?
      Shouldn't that also be covered in the scope of this rule change?

      Commenter
      stephen
      Location
      geelong
      Date and time
      December 20, 2013, 9:36AM
      • They had to leave that out.... Too many Selwoods to consider

        Commenter
        Rusty's mate
        Location
        Next door
        Date and time
        December 20, 2013, 5:59PM
    • Hopefully these words off the field translate into change on the field. I'm sick of seeing players running along bent in half waiting for someone to hit them. Nothing happened when they made noise about staging, so I'm not optimistic.

      Commenter
      Nick
      Date and time
      December 20, 2013, 10:40AM
      • Not having a crack at Jake here, you gotta write about something in the off season. But this shouldn't be news. If you duck your head and have prior opportunity that's ball. Don't need a committee to work that out.

        Commenter
        Jim
        Location
        Coburg
        Date and time
        December 20, 2013, 1:30PM
        • Jim,
          You have missed the whole point. Players ducking their head into tackles have not been penalised for holding the ball but have been given the penalty because they were tackled too high. How many times have you seen Joel Selwood get the penalty after having done this? Therefore this is an important rule change and it is news.

          Commenter
          Beyondthepale
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          December 21, 2013, 12:49PM

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