Holding-the-ball rule up for debate

The AFL will invite coaches to help clarify the most-debated rule of the year – holding the ball – at an end-of-season summit with umpires and the rules committee.

The league will make the rule – in particular the ‘‘prior opportunity’’ component – a subject for special discussion when it brings clubs together as it did before last year’s draft on the regulations around marking contests.

The plan was revealed as the umpires department determined on Monday that Port Adelaide forward Angus Monfries should have been penalised for holding the ball late in the Power’s two-point loss to Essendon at Adelaide Oval on Saturday.

Monfries was tackled from behind by Essendon defender  Mark Baguley a few metres from goal, and stripped of the ball after taking a few quick steps towards the goal line.  The ball spilled out to Monfries’ teammate Kane Mitchell, whose goal cut the margin to less than a kick.

AFL umpires boss Wayne Campbell said on Monday night: ‘‘We think he (Monfries) probably had prior opportunity, therefore it was an illegal disposal.

‘‘The umpire on the night thought he didn’t have prior opportunity and because he then attempted to kick the ball, that’s why he ruled play on.

‘‘We concede it was an error. We thought it was marginal and we certainly won’t be hanging the umpire on it.’’

AFL football operations manager Mark Evans said the laws of the game committee saw the need for clubs, umpires and lawmakers to create greater clarity on how much time players had to get rid of the ball before they were penalised.

AFL rules state a player must immediately kick or handball once tackled, and will be called for holding the ball if they have had prior opportunity to dispose of the ball and have not done so.

‘‘We’ve had some really good discussions at laws of the game meetings around holding the ball and prior opportunity, and we think it’s a really difficult rule to adjudicate on,’’ Evans said.

‘‘There are three or four parts to it, and some of those parts aren’t well understood publicly, so we think it’s worthwhile at the end of the season to have a forum with the coaches and umpires, and talk to them about how we define prior opportunity.

‘‘We did it last year and had some really good discussions, specifically about the marking contest, and this time around, the laws of the game committee was quite keen to raise holding the ball as the key topic ... I don’t think it’s well understood at the moment.’’

This story Holding-the-ball rule up for debate first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.