Solving holding the ball and congestion - what defines a completed tackle?

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Mitchell Madness

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As the title says, what defines a completed tackle in Aussie rules? Compare it to other codes..

Rugby Union - when forward momentum is stopped is when the tackle is considered complete

Rugby league - when the elbow has hit the ground or momentum has been stopped

Gridiron - when the knee has hit the ground or momentum has stopped.

In Aussie rules (or rather at AFL level) there's no definition. Sometimes it's when a player has stopped, other times they circle around for an eternity.
Sometimes a player can dive on the ball (the elbow/knee spot), but is then given an eternity to get it out), other times they're pinged instantly.
Wanna grab it and be spun around 50 times? That's ok in games 1,3,5,7 but don't you dare try it in games 2,4,6,8. Oh, and raffle off game 9.

There's no definition of what a completed tackle actually is in this game. Define that, then the umpires blow the whistle quicker. Quicker whistle = less congestion. On a side note, less frustrated fans as interpretations don't change between games
 

PowerForGood

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By defining a completed tackle, do you mean whether a free kick should be paid or not? Because Rule 17.6 in the Laws of the Game define a Holding the Ball free kick.

Tackling in all three examples you've given are simply to stop the play, and in League/Gridiron are steps to define limited possessions before having to turn the ball over. So it's a count which is easy, not a free kick judgement.
Also note that the three sports all cover forward momentum as a definition, easier to see and call as a referee. Aussie Rules does not have that luxury.

However your point on whether we can take interpretation out of the umpiring is a valid one, question will always be which stance taken will be the appropriate one.
Prior opportunity or not? Ball knocked free in the tackle or not? Halt momentum in any direction? Genuine attempt or not? Diving on the ball or not?
Combination of all of the above?
 

Adelaide Hawk

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Tonight, I pulled out a copy of the 1976 Grand Final and watched the first half. Umpires just paid free kicks and the game just flowed. A player had the ball, was tackled, holding the ball. Simple. None of this "forced out in the tackle" or "prior opportunity" crap. The players knew that was how it was going to umpired so they moved the ball on. Get back to basics, umpiring will improve, and the game will be better for it. Didn't see players waving their arms around appealing for free kicks, the players just accepted it and got on with the game. Refreshing.
 

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yebiga

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Tonight, I pulled out a copy of the 1976 Grand Final and watched the first half. Umpires just paid free kicks and the game just flowed. A player had the ball, was tackled, holding the ball. Simple. None of this "forced out in the tackle" or "prior opportunity" crap. The players knew that was how it was going to umpired so they moved the ball on. Get back to basics, umpiring will improve, and the game will be better for it. Didn't see players waving their arms around appealing for free kicks, the players just accepted it and got on with the game. Refreshing.
Brilliant post.

The confusion reigns because too many of the key rules are not sufficiently defined and require subjective interpretations. Umpires are asked not to make decisions on what they saw but what they felt. The most contentious being prior opportunity/holding ball/sufficient effort to dispose when tackled and the insane deliberate out of bounds.

In short, we are all set-up for failure. The umpires can't possibly get it right because there is no right.

We have not defined what constitutes possession, what constitutes prior opportunity, what constitutes a satisfactory effort to dispose of the ball. We have not done it because it's too hard or, as I believe, we aren't really sure what we want.

One school of thought is to remove the prior opportunity altogether. As you point out those games from the 1970s illustrate how the game was played without it. Those who resist this recommendation are concerned that no-one will take possession or players will sweat on players who do. I think those concerns are short-sighted because players are smarter and more aware than they give them credit.

Removal of the prior opportunity rule would undoubtedly provide much-needed clarity when someone is tackled with the ball and unable to dispose of it. But the subjective element would not be removed - only moved. Under those circumstances, players will tap the ball in front of themselves with the view of attracting a tackle when they are not in possession - hoping to attract a free. This would still lead to subjective interpretations of what is deemed incidental and excessive contact with a player who is tapping the ball in front of themselves. These were the kind of the free kicks Keith Greig and Dougie Hawkins specialized in back in the 1970s and 80s.

It then comes down to an aesthetic question: do we want to see aggressive tackles with repeated stoppages or a bit of hot potato but a more open game.

I believe the AFLs desire to infiltrate the northern Rugby states played a significant role in the expansion of the prior opportunity rule. Prior opportunity encouraged players to take possession and break tackles. And the number of tackles increased throughout the 1980s and 90s. Teams hired tackling wrestling and rugby coaches, hit the gym to get stronger at applying ferocious techniques. The increased tackling game effectively countered the NSW/QLD barb that the AFL game was "aerial ping pong".

The exponential increase in tackling has changed our game dramatically over the last 3 decades. Perhaps, it helped the Northern states to embrace our game. The question now is whether the best free-flowing aspects off our game are compatible with the tackling game we currently play. Is it perhaps illogical to tinker with rules to create a more open free-flowing game without reducing the number of tackles. After all, congestion is created by a tackle.

Our now better understanding of the long-term consequences of concussion means more rule changes will be necessary. A number of unique factors in our sport mean that the threat of concussion is greater in AFL then any other contact sport. Unlike Rugby or Grid-iron, there is no off-side rule in the AFL. So our players are easily blind-sided. Unlike Rugby, AFL players cannot throw the ball with one hand, they need both and if they are being tackled as they dispose of the ball with both hands they are less able to cushion their fall.

Therefore, the pressure to look at the frequency of tackling and its execution will continue to be a hot topic of discussion. Not only because of concerns with concussion but also from an aesthetic perspective.

Apologies for the length of this post.
 
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