Contentious New AFL Ruck Rule Causes Confusion
Two ruckmen compete for the ball

Two ruckmen compete for the ball

Two ruckmen compete for the ball

Elliot Turner

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The new AFL ruck rule has come under criticism, after a few contentious umpiring decisions in this week’s pre-season fixtures.

The “ruck contest” now refers to just two players contending for the ball thrown in by the umpire. The new rule stops any attempt by a third player to enter the contest, which was allowed in last year’s season. This is known as the “third man up” rule.

The controversy started in a pre-season match between the Adelaide Crows and Geelong Cats. A short throw-in by the boundary umpire hit Adelaide midfielder Dean Gore in the back as he watched the ruck contest. This caused a free kick to be given to opposition team, Geelong.

By the letter of the new law, this is the correct decision but the Adelaide player did not intend to impact the ruck contest. The law does obviously not allow for a shallow throw-in or mistake by the boundary umpire.

Adelaide coach Don Pyke has asked for clarification surrounding the rule saying, “It’s one of the real weird ones. If the ball hits you as a midfielder, and you’re around the contest, it’s a free kick against.

“He wasn’t trying to contest the ball. It was just that the ball hit him. Maybe it’s something they’ll look at. I’ll leave that with the umpires,” said Pyke.

Two free kicks were also paid for the same incident in an AFL women’s match between Carlton and the Western Bulldogs. One free kick resulted in a goal in what was a low-scoring match.

Bulldogs coach Paul Groves was critical of the umpiring decisions. “Our girl actually ran away from the ball and it was the Carlton girl that just naturally tapped it and it’s a free kick in front of the goal,” he said. “The AFL are no doubt having a look at it.”

This has led to a response from the umpire’s boss Peter Schwab.

“It doesn’t happen too often, it’s a little bit unusual, so we’ll just be asking the clubs if the player gets hit by the ball, is passive and not looking to impact the ruck contest, should we be just calling play on?” said Schwab.

He agreed that it is not really the player’s fault if they are hit with the ball by the umpire whilst not actually attempting to contest the ruck.

“I don’t think anyone who’s hit by the ball in the back of the head is really looking to do that (impact the ruck contest) naturally,” said Schwab.

The umpires will consult with the coaches about this issue and it should be resolved in due course.


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Contentious New AFL Ruck Rule Causes Confusion