Holding the ball is a critical component of the game. Umpires must reward the tackler but at the same time protect the ball player. AFL field umpire Brett Rosebury takes us through the five crucial components of holding the ball...
The critical thing to remember before you pay a free kick for holding the ball is that we must protect the ball player. In other words, the tackle must be legal.
This is the obvious starting point before discussing the five components of holding the ball.
Part 1 - Reasonable opportunity/no prior opportunity
Players that have had no prior opportunity need to be given a reasonable opportunity to dispose of the football when tackled legally. In this situation, a genuine attempt to kick or handball is acceptable and play on will result.
Part 2 - Prior opportunity
Where a player has had a reasonable opportunity to dispose of the football by way of kick or handball and is then legally tackled and there is no immediate legal kick or handball a free kick results. An attempt to kick or handball in this instance is not good enough.
Part 3 - Diving on the ball
In this situation the onus is on the player who dives on the ball. Once he is legally tackled, the player must immediately and successfully knock the ball on otherwise he will be penalised for holding the ball.
Part 4 - Taking on the tackler
Umpires need to be really strong in this area. When a player attempts to take on a tackler and is legally tackled, we must be strong and pay holding the ball. We must also be strong and award a free kick against any player who is legally tackled and then bounces the football.
Part 5 - Taking the ball from the ruck
When ruckmen take the ball from a ruck contest they are deemed to have had prior opportunity and must legally kick or handball immediately. In this situation an attempt to kick or handball is not good enough. However, the tackle must still be legal.
Brett Rosebury originally provided his thoughts on holding the ball for afl.com.au