AFL admits more talk needed on rule

The farce surrounding the free kick awarded against Michael Firrito has left the AFL admitting that more communication is needed about the rushed behind rule.

The fallout from the controversial free paid against the North Melbourne defender has prompted the league to contact senior coaches this week.

Football operations manager Mark Evans has already said the AFL will review the rushed behind rule at the end of the season.

The issue was also discussed on Thursday at a meeting of the league’s rules committee, while senior coaches have queued up to express their confusion about the rule.

“There has been no attempt to change the interpretation of the rule mid-year, but we accept that most of the reference to these free kicks have historically been about the player being under pressure or not, and greater communication on the other factors is needed,” Evans said in a statement on Friday.

“… The law needs reviewing and we will do that at season’s end.”

In the opening minute of last Saturday night’s match against Port Adelaide, Firrito was being tackled by Charlie Dixon when he handballed through a rushed behind from the top of the goalsquare.

Field umpire Justin Schmitt paid a free kick against Firrito and Port’s Jay Schulz kicked the first goal of the match.

On Monday, AFL umpires coach Hayden Kennedy insisted Schmitt made the right call.

“Since the introduction of the rule in 2009 the most commonly discussed factor for a free to be paid or not paid is whether the player is under pressure,” Evans said.

“The vision sent around in May also highlighted the defender’s distance away from the goal line, and the time and space the player had to otherwise dispose of the ball as reasons for the umpires to determine whether a free for deliberate rushed behind should be paid.”

On Thursday, Melbourne coach Paul Roos expressed his frustration about the rushed behind rule.

He said the AFL, not the umpires, were to blame for this latest controversy because rules were being tweaked too often.

Roos added he was still confused about the rushed behind rule, “probably like 99.99 per cent (of people)”.

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