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Scrap prior opportunity: Tigers' Hardwick

·2-min read

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has called for the AFL to scrap prior opportunity as a way to remove the confusion regarding holding-the-ball.

The rule and its application have come under scrutiny since St Kilda coach Brett Ratten lamented his side earning just three free kicks from 86 tackles against Geelong on Friday night.

Hardwick said it was up the AFL to make life easier for umpires.

"Prior opportunity just makes the umpires' job harder," he said on Wednesday.

"Put the pressure on the players, the players adjust really quickly.

" We've seen how quickly they've adjusted to the man on the mark rule.

"If we put the rule in place that the players have to get rid of it, they'll start tapping it, they'll start kicking."

Hardwick referenced Essendon great and former teammate Michael Long as a great exponent of keeping the ball alive.

"The amount of handballs we see now if we go back in the course of time and look at history, the players used to kick it, now under pressure they will handball," the three-time premiership coach said.

"If we take away prior opportunity, it probably reduces congestion around that.

"Back in the old days you knew you were going to get tackled and knock it on.

"You tap the ball to your advantage, you kick it off the ground, or you kick it long.

"The really smart players will become smarter."

Brisbane coach Chris Fagan had similar thoughts to Hardwick, saying players who did not handball or kick the ball after they were tackled should be immediately penalised.

But Geelong's Chris Scott did not think the rule needed to be changed.

"It seems that there are some people that think that rewarding the tackler is the most important thing and that's not the rule," Scott said.

"It's incumbent on everyone, including some of the media commentators as well, to understand exactly how the rule is interpreted and I think the umpires have been quite clear with us.

"Obviously there are individual variations within umpires and sometimes there is a little bit of a tightening or loosening of the interpretation, but I think we understand the rule pretty well.

"The important thing within games is that it is consistent for both teams."

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