As the holding the ball rule continues to spark confusion and frustration across the football spectrum, Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury and Melbourne coach Paul Roos have added their criticism, while Geelong coach Chris Scott has come out in sympathy for umpires.
Pendlebury said there was inconsistency and uncertainty week to week in applying the rule, which was becoming confusing for players.
‘‘I always look at the umpire, because if he runs in straight away it means ball-up and if he stands back and does his little bow you know you’re in a bit of trouble,’’ he said.
‘‘But it’s a tough one to get a handle on sometimes; sometimes players don’t have any opportunity to get rid of the ball ... they get pinged if they’re not making a legitimate attempt to get rid of it.’’
Roos, meanwhile, has lashed the umpires, complaining about their leniency after the Demons had just five free kicks against Collingwood.
‘‘It is hard to believe you get five free kicks in 120 minutes of footy, but that’s the philosophy of the umpiring department, keeping the game moving,’’ he said. ‘‘It is illogical to think a team could only infringe five times in 120 minutes.
‘‘Going through that game clearly there were free kicks that weren’t paid. It is a clear guideline from Wayne Campbell and Hayden [Kennedy] that they want more leniency, and the [lack of] 50-metre penalties is extraordinary.’’
He said the AFL was wrong to want to limit the number of stoppages in a game.
‘‘The stoppage is a great time to reset your team. Coaches hate having six forwards up the ground, but if there is no stoppage the forwards tend to get caught and you can’t score,’’ he said.
However, Scott has thrown a metaphorical arm around the umpires by saying there is too much focus on their mistakes.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said on Monday night that he was ‘‘still getting my head around the holding the ball rule’’, which is at the heart of the majority of feedback from coaches and clubs to the umpiring department. Scott senses improvement and greater understanding, but said the complexity of the rule makes it ‘‘incredibly difficult’’ to get right every time.
‘‘At the moment there’s too big a focus on the mistakes,’’ Scott said. ‘‘We should say, ‘That’s clearly a mistake, so we’ll let that one go and forget about it.’
‘‘The ones we should be focusing on are where the umpires are saying, ‘No, that’s the correct decision’, and nobody can understand it. And I’m not sure there are a whole lot of those. In terms of the rules and the umpiring, there’s not a good enough understanding that mistakes happen.’’
While his team sneaked home against Carlton last Friday amid controversy over a missed free for high contact that umpires boss Campbell said should have been paid to the Blues, Scott said it was a separate argument to question whether it was good enough for umpires to continue to make mistakes.
Scott said the umpiring department sent out a memo a fortnight ago clarifying the rule, and he was pleased the officials are operating under instruction to pay only frees they are convinced are there.
The Cats received a memo sent to all clubs about the positioning and conduct of runners on the ground, after Nigel Lappin’s presence at a stoppage in the dying seconds infuriated Carlton coach Mick Malthouse.
Scott described the controversy as ‘‘such a non-issue I’m not going to waste any time on it’’.
With Alana Schetzer