AFL announces interpretation changes around holding the ball and time wasting free kicks

Headshot of Craig O'Donoghue
Craig O'DonoghueThe West Australian
Tacklers are set to be rewarded more under new AFL law interpretations.
Camera IconTacklers are set to be rewarded more under new AFL law interpretations. Credit: Daniel Carson/AFL Photos

The AFL have announced two significant changes to interpretations for the upcoming season, including a pledge to be harsher on players who fail to dispose of the ball legally when tackled.

The league sent a laws memo to clubs on Monday and that followed meetings between the clubs and AFL Executive General Manager Football Operations Andrew Dillon and General Manager Football Brad Scott.

Under the new interpretation, the AFL says:

  • Umpires will be less lenient towards Players who have had Prior Opportunity and do not immediately and Correctly Dispose of the Football when they are Legally Tackled under existing Law 18.6.2.
  • A Free Kick will be awarded against a Player who ducks their head prior to being Legally Tackled and does not immediately and Correctly Dispose of the Football. Umpire cues for Prior Opportunity includes: evading, fending, ducking, has a prior option (i.e. goes to handball / kick and decides not to), is balanced and steady, is awarded a mark or free-kick, or drives their head.

The move is set to apply even more pressure on the ball player and comes after several senior coaches - most notably ex-Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson - had pushed for less prior opportunity in recent seasons.

The AFL also revealed that umpires will no longer warn players if they engage in time wasting and will instantly apply a 50m penalty.

“The tightening up of these existing rules comes after the Game Analysis team, made up of AFL and AFL Club staff, identified trends in the way the game was being played and umpired in the AFL and aims to deliver a game that is played and umpired in line with the spirit and intention that is consistent with the Laws of Australian Football,” Dillon said.

“AFL umpires have also resumed training and we commend their commitment and professionalism as we worked through these interpretations as a collective. Last year, AFL umpires took part in over 500 club visits across the pre-season period which was beneficial to both players and umpires. We will continue that connection between AFL umpires and AFL Clubs in the lead up to games in 2022.”

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