AFL coaches Luke Beveridge and Simon Goodwin have mixed reactions to free-kick crackdown

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge called the AFL crackdown on players ducking for free kicks “another flinch” and said players going hardest to win the football should not be “victimized”.

But the premiership winning coach was a lone voice against the move with Melbourne mentor Simon Goodwin supportive and North Melbourne’s Leigh Adams, who had his career shortened by concussion issues also a strong advocate of shift in focus.

On Tuesday the AFL sent a memo to all clubs re-emphasising a directive to umpires to not reward players that duck, drop or shrug into a tackle to draw high contact with a free kick.

Citing Geelong captain Joel Selwood as a prime example of someone who earns free kicks simply by being the “the hardest at the football in the competition”, Beveridge said that sort of endeavour shouldn’t be penalised.

“My point of view is let’s not change the game and the interpretations that has been there forever,” he said.

“It’s another flinch, Just reward the player who is hardest at the football and let’s not victimize that behavior. It should be rewarded, not penalized.

“Just leave it as it is. Reward the player who has his head over the footy. Ultimately, penalize the guy who hasn’t tackled like he should have tackled. I’m happy for the ones that are right on the edge or marginal to play on.

“But let’s not change things again. Reward the player that goes harder at the football.”

But Kangaroos caretaker coach Adams, who had to retire when he was only 27 due to concussion-related issues, said the “little tweak” could stop players putting themselves in harms way.

“I‘m all about protecting the head as much as you can, and I’d love to see – I’m hoping that this new rule brings about players stopping using their head as much as they do because I think we’re seeing more and more concussion-related injuries,” Adams said at Arden Street.

“The more we can get that out of our game, hopefully this little tweak to the rules will stop guys from doing it because there‘s no incentive to get the free kick.”

Adams said he wouldn‘t have to change his players’ tackling technique at training in light of the AFL directive.

“We don‘t have a lot of guys that use that technique from a drawing-free-kicks point of view,” Adams said.

“We‘ve always talked about going at the hips anyway so if they (opponents) are going to drop, we’re still telling them to target the hips and if the head’s there, from this week onwards hopefully, there’s not going to be as many free kicks.”

Premiership winner Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin threw his support behind the crackdown despite one of his players being caught up in the controversy.

Among three examples from last weekend’s round of games was one involving Demon livewire Kysaiah Pickett, who was awarded a free kick for high contact after being tackled by Port Adelaide captain Tom Jonas.

But it was identified as incorrectly adjudicated and Pickett was responsible for the high contact after dropping his shoulders so the taller opponent took him high. “Play on” should’ve been called.

Goodwin said that specific area of the game was “tough to adjudicate” but also incidents of players ducking for free kicks needed to be eradicated from the game.

“We’ll show our players and educate our players. It’s not something that we coach within our playing group,” he said on Wednesday.

“I think it’s fantastic (the AFL) have been able to come out and say this is what they are going to be focusing on from an umpiring perspective. And no doubt it’s challenging for umpires.

“I don’t think it’s a great look for our game where we try and draw free kicks, but it’s a tough thing to umpire. For them to come out and send a message … and we can pass that message on to players, hopefully we can try and eradicate that stuff from the game.

In the edict sent to the clubs, AFL head of umpiring Dan Richardson said while players trying to win the ball had to be protected, they also had a “duty of care to not put themselves in a position for high contact”.

“Ultimately, the rules do not reward players for putting themselves in vulnerable positions to draw a free kick. This is something we prefer not to see in our game at any level,” he said.

“We want to be clear; if the umpire believes the ball carrier is responsible for the high contact, then they won’t be rewarded.”

But Beveridge said if players who went hard, like Selwood, had “techniques that entice a clumsy tackle”, they shouldn’t be penalised.

“The reason why (Selwood) gets a lot of free kicks is probably because he’s the hardest at the football and at a loose ball in the competition, so reward him for it,” he said.

“If he’s got techniques that ultimately entice a clumsy or an undisciplined tackle, good luck to him and he deserves every free kick he gets.

“He’s a prime example for me, and so do we look back and say some of the ones he’s got over time shouldn’t be there based on what’s been put out. Just leave it as it is. Reward the player who has his head over the footy.

“Penalize the guy who hasn’t tackled like he should have tackled. I’m happy for the ones that are right on the edge or marginal to play on. But let’s not change things again.”

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