AFL coaches surprised over rushed free

The Michael Firrito free kick continues to generate considerable debate, with coaches Nathan Buckley and Chris Scott surprised the AFL said it was correct.

Umpires coach Hayden Kennedy backed Justin Schmitt after his controversial free against the North Melbourne defender in the opening minute of Saturday’s loss to Port Adelaide.

Port forward Jay Schulz was tackling Firrito in the goalsquare when the North backman handballed through the rushed behind.

Schmitt paid the free against Firrito for a deliberate rushed behind and Schulz kicked the easiest of goals to put Port on the board.

“He thought Michael then had an opportunity to dispose of the ball,” Kennedy told the AFL website.

“He doesn’t and once he gets tackled, he handballs it with force well over the (goal) line.

“Justin weighed up those two particular items and because of the distance away from the (goal) line and from where it (the handball) landed, he thought it was a deliberate rushed behind.”

Kennedy conceded Firrito was under pressure, but said the rushed behind was intentional and could have been avoided.

Buckley was asked on Monday night if he thought it would have been paid a free kick for deliberate.

“No, I wouldn’t have thought it would have, personally,” the Collingwood coach told AFL 360.

“Firstly, I didn’t realise there was a distance from the goal line, that it was too far out.

“So if he’d been tackled and done that from half a metre, that would have been okay.

“I don’t see that in the law book.

“The fact that it’s come out and in the cold heart light of day been validated, is probably of a concern.

“Now defenders will not make it that deliberate, because there are plenty of deliberate rushed behinds (and) there are plenty that aren’t paid – that’s the grey area in the game.

Until Monday, Scott thought “100 per cent that the determining factor in paying a free for a deliberate rushed behind was the pressure that the player is under.

“You can’t get much more pressure than that,” the Geelong coach said.

Scott also noted Firrito was in the goalsquare when tackled.

Scott and Buckley readily agreed it was a deliberate rushed behind, but noted players did that often in games without penalty.

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