Brendan Goddard claims players don’t understand the sliding rule

Alfred Chan Columnist

By Alfred Chan, Alfred Chan is a Roar Expert

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    When players of a professional sport claim not to understand the rules of a game they play, it is a damning blight on the AFL’s Rules of the Game committee.

    On Channel Ten’s Before the Game, a program not exactly known to be a platform for asking ‘hard’ questions,, Essendon’s Brendan Goddard was asked about the contentious new sliding rule.

    “Are you clear in your mind as to what you can and can’t do?” Andy Maher asked.

    “No, we have no idea,” Goddard responded.

    “I don’t know. Is it diving, or if you fall over is it the same?

    “It’s been explained but we’re actually not sure.”

    The sliding rule has been a new rule which came into the game at the beginning of the 2013 season in an attempt to protect player safety.

    During the 2012 season, players sliding into contests and making contact with player’s legs resulting in sickening broken legs when players slid into contests and made knee contact from the side and front.

    The following addition to the rules of the game was added for the 2013 season:

    “A free kick will now be awarded against any player under existing Law 15.4.5 a (ii) Prohibited Contact, who makes forceful contact below the knees of an opponent (this does not apply to smothers with the hands or arms).

    “Rule 15.4.5(a)(ii) already states a free kick can be awarded for contact below knees, and as such a rule change is not required, but rather a stricter interpretation of the current law.”

    Goddard’s comments can be understood after Matthew Pavlich was awarded a free kick when an Essendon player attempted to smother his kick.

    There has never been an AFL season where rule interpretation has not been a controversial issue but when players are claiming they do not know the rules, despite it being explained to them, the AFL has a problem.

    While it may be easy enough for the AFL to blame the players for not understanding the rule, umpire interpretation does not align with common sense.

    Factors such as impact of contact, point of contact, momentum and intention are all ambiguous and the opening three rounds have provided little, if any clarity.

    For the past few years, the AFL has reiterated the notion of the head being sacrosanct and any contact will be considered high contact.

    Interpretation of the ‘contact below the knees’ rule has resulted in both contact to the head, and contact below the knees.

    One incident from Friday night was shown when Essendon’s Michael Hibberd and Fremantle’s Michael Barlow attacked a loose ball. Barlow kept his feet, while Hibberd slid into the contest and made contact with his head against Barlow’s knee.

    The umpire awarded a free kick against Barlow for making high contact, despite being the player who stayed on his feet.

    Barlow professed his confusion and a 50 metre penalty was awarded against him.

    There was an identical occurrence yesterday when Hawthorn’s Luke Hodge slid head first into a contest, thus taking out the legs of Collingwood’s Harry O’Brien. A free kick was awarded to Hodge for O’Brien making head high contact.

    In both Barlow and O’Brien’s cases, they kept their feet and did everything the AFL advised players to do, yet free kicks were awarded against them.

    In other instances, players have been rewarded with a free kick for kneeing an opposition player in the head due to accidental contact.

    Under the current interpretation of the rule, the head is deemed more important than the knees and players are encouraged to kamikaze dive head first into opposition player knees.

    It is clear that confusion among players extends well beyond Goddard and the AFL needs to take note by either explaining the rule in more simple terms.

    Players, umpires and fans obviously have a different understanding of the rule because confused players become dangerous players.

    Whether it be the broken legs or the insurmountable concussions from sliding head first into contests, something about that doesn’t sound right.

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    The Crowd Says (33)

    • April 15th 2013 @ 8:05am
      Hawker said | April 15th 2013 @ 8:05am | ! Report

      An overreaction to one injury. I’ve been watching AFL for since the late 80’s and you could count on one hand the number of leg injuries from players going to ground to get the ball.

      • April 15th 2013 @ 8:17pm
        Floreat Pica said | April 15th 2013 @ 8:17pm | ! Report

        Which one do you know of?- I think there were a few last year- McCaffer and Pendlebury at collingwood for starters

    • April 15th 2013 @ 8:35am
      Andrew Young said | April 15th 2013 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      Lenny Hayes was kicked in the head in round one. The guy that kicked him for a free kick. I’m also confused.

      • Columnist

        April 15th 2013 @ 5:52pm
        Alfred Chan said | April 15th 2013 @ 5:52pm | ! Report

        Hayes plays his best football at ground level so the rule change has hurt him quite a bit. He wins the ball a lot because he attacks it harder than anyone else. It’s probably a bit too late in his career to ask him to change the way he plays.

    • April 15th 2013 @ 8:48am
      Mikileaks said | April 15th 2013 @ 8:48am | ! Report

      Never underestimate the journalistic integrity of Before the Game. Mick Molloy confirmed Mick Malthouse would be the coach of Carlton nine months before the appointment was made.

      Comment from The Roar’s iPhone app.

    • April 15th 2013 @ 9:27am
      Macca said | April 15th 2013 @ 9:27am | ! Report

      This is the stupidest rule change the AFL have had in a while and even the umpires seem to have no idea how to implement it, Marc Murphy gets penalised for going after the ball when he is already on the ground but Luke Hodge gats a free kick for diving in head first.

      It seems wanting to get the ball is a bad thing now.

      • April 15th 2013 @ 9:33am
        Hawker said | April 15th 2013 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        The rule says nothing about ‘sliding in’ only forceful contact below the knees. Hodge got kneed in the head after he won the ball. If thats not a free kick to him I don’t know what is.

        • April 15th 2013 @ 9:38am
          Macca said | April 15th 2013 @ 9:38am | ! Report

          But that’s the thing Hawker, Hodge still had forward momentum so he actually made forceful contact below the knees. Murphy barely touched Stevie J (again the contact was high on Murphy) but Murphy got pinged.

          And even if you are correct the rule then encourages players to point their heads in the direction of on coming knees, if you try to protect yourself you will be pinged, if you lead with your head rewarded.

          • April 15th 2013 @ 9:51am
            Hawker said | April 15th 2013 @ 9:51am | ! Report

            Players who put their head over the ball should always be protected first. I agree with your point below sliding in feet first should be banned.

        • April 15th 2013 @ 10:03am
          Nathan of Perth said | April 15th 2013 @ 10:03am | ! Report

          Yeah, I have no love for either team in that game but it shouldn’t be any surprise to anyone that in the hierarchy of rules, protecting the head comes before protecting the leg.

          • April 15th 2013 @ 10:10am
            Macca said | April 15th 2013 @ 10:10am | ! Report

            Completely agree but it doesn’t seem to have been the case in every instance and all it does is cause players to risk their heads, protect yourself and give away a free kick, lead with your head and get one.

            The result the same amount of leg injuries and more head injuries.

        • April 15th 2013 @ 5:26pm
          Macca said | April 15th 2013 @ 5:26pm | ! Report

          This is from the AFL Website –
          “THE AFL has admitted Harry O’Brien should have received a free kick rather than be reported when Luke Hodge slid into him during Sunday’s game between Collingwood and Hawthorn.

          The Match Review Panel cleared O’Brien on Monday and AFL umpires manager Jeff Gieschen said the umpire had made a mistake.

          “When we’ve reviewed that, we can clearly see that Luke Hodge did elect to go to ground,” Gieschen told

          “When he went to ground he had a bit of momentum, and he made contact to Harry O’Brien below the knees, causing Harry O’Brien to topple over. That’s one of those ones, [a] mistake by the umpire. It should have been a free kick to Harry O’Brien.”

          • Columnist

            April 15th 2013 @ 5:55pm
            Alfred Chan said | April 15th 2013 @ 5:55pm | ! Report

            I’m glad they admitted their mistake so quickly and I suppose they are lucky it wasn’t a close game.

            • April 15th 2013 @ 8:22pm
              Floreat Pica said | April 15th 2013 @ 8:22pm | ! Report

              May be sour grapes, but at that stage of the game there wasn’t much in it- the umpires have to be consistent on it and that free kick and the coast to coast Franklin goal were the end of Collingwood’s momentum in the game. Anyone watching the free-kick awarded ten minutes before couldn’t believe the exact opposite decision with Hodge clearly diving onto the ball being the initiator of the contact.

    • April 15th 2013 @ 9:38am
      Pope Paul VII said | April 15th 2013 @ 9:38am | ! Report

      I think the umpy’s don’t understand it. The rule states forceful contact below the knee. That to me would have to bowl the standing player over.

      Forceful contact with the knee on head is surely more common?

      • April 15th 2013 @ 9:45am
        Macca said | April 15th 2013 @ 9:45am | ! Report

        If they wanted to stamp out what happened to Gary Rohan they should of just banned the feet first slide (similar to Soccer).

        Chris Yarran has been done twice in the last 2 weeks for what appeared to be simply rolling over after taking possession of the ball on the ground. No force at all.

        When the blue splayed COllingwod Travis Cloke was cramping up late in the game with the scores close and made a couple of repeat effoerts one of which was just throwing himself at the ball on the ground and getting lower than his Carlton opponent, it was a great piece of play but had the carlton bloke simply stood up and allowed himself to be bowled over Cloke would have been penalised.

        • April 15th 2013 @ 8:23pm
          Floreat Pica said | April 15th 2013 @ 8:23pm | ! Report

          Agree with you here- it’s a new rule that lacks focus on its purpose. Needs review.

    • April 15th 2013 @ 10:31am
      Gr8rWestr said | April 15th 2013 @ 10:31am | ! Report

      There is no doubt there is confusion over this new interpretation, the primary reason for the confusion is the inconsistent application of the rule by the umpires. Any rule re-interpretation has teething problems, especially when it is to some degree in conflict with another important concept enshrined in the rules. I think the key issue in applying these conflicting aspects of the rules, protecting the head v protecting the lower legs, is who was primarily responsible for the contact occurring.

      The AFL needs to work toward a more consistent interpretation by umpires, the only way to do that is intensive training of all umpires in the correct interpretation of the new interpretation.

      IMHO, I do think the degree of understanding of the rules of their chosen sport by professional sports people is generally greatly over stated.

      • Columnist

        April 15th 2013 @ 6:00pm
        Alfred Chan said | April 15th 2013 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

        I agree with that last comment. The AFL match review panel has made no sense for the past five years and their explanation of the Lindsey Thomas bump has left coaches, players and fans confused. Hands in the back took about three seasons for players to understand and I would estimate only 50% of AFL players can recite what the bump rule is. It obviously comes down to split second decisions in games but it has to be remembered that AFL players have played 20 years of football under one set of rules and they would understandably be confused in the first one or two of a new rule being implemented.

        • April 16th 2013 @ 1:20pm
          Nathan of Perth said | April 16th 2013 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

          Mind you, some of our fellow fans aren’t the brightest sparks to being with. At the Geelong-Carlton game I turned to my wife and exclaimed in frustration “I’ve got TEN THOUSAND people to the right of me who have no idea what the words ‘prior opportunity’ mean!”

          Got shushed for my troubles, too!

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