AFL coaches expect teething issues on holding-the-ball rule tweak

A new interpretation to the holding-the-ball rule will come into effect in round 12.

A new interpretation to the holding-the-ball rule will come into effect in round 12. Photo: AFL Photos via Getty

Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell expects there to be teething issues with the AFL’s change to the contentious holding-the-ball rule, but has lauded the move as a positive for the competition.

After weeks of backlash from coaches and fans, the league’s hierarchy has directed umpires to shorten the “reasonable time” component of the rule.

The new interpretation, effective immediately, comes after some coaches expressed confusion at how the law was being implemented.

“It shows how quickly you can make a change when you’re really motivated to make it,” Mitchell told reporters on Thursday.

“We’ll all watch the Thursday and Friday night games with a fair bit of interest to see how they’re adjudicated.

“We’ve shown the players the vision that the AFL has sent and I think everyone will watch the games.

“There’s going to be a teething (process), whether that’s players, umpires or coaches working out what it’s going to look like over the next week or so.

“We all accept that it’s a positive change that needs to be made and we’ll see how it goes over the next couple of weeks.”

Essendon coach Brad Scott, who served as the AFL’s general manager of football before joining the Bombers, liked the “proactive nature” of the league’s response to the backlash around the holding-the-ball rule.

“Fans, the coaches, the players always seek clarity and when the AFL can provide clarity, that really helps,” Scott said.

“There will be different opinions as to what’s holding the ball and what’s not, and how it should be adjudicated.

“But all we want to know is what the umpires have been coached on and what the umpires are looking for.”

Essendon had two AFL umpires at Thursday’s training session to help with clarification around the rule tweak.

“My personal opinion is that more communication is better when it comes to these things,” Scott said.

“I don’t think it’s a rule change – I’m sure it’s not – but it’s a tightening up of the interpretation of the current rule.”

Mitchell welcomed this week’s revelation that umpires are receiving in-game feedback from off-field match officials through earpieces, declaring it positive if it is making the whistleblowers’ jobs easier.

His St Kilda counterpart Ross Lyon said he had a “high level of comfort” after previously speaking with new umpires’ boss Steve McBurney about the communication, but added he was “surprised” to now read it appeared be happening during play.

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