Rhys Stanley and Mark Blicavs of the Cats outnumber Sam Jacobs of the Crows at a throw-in.
Rhys Stanley and Mark Blicavs of the Cats outnumber Sam Jacobs of the Crows at a throw-in. BEN MACMAHON

AFL bans third man up in series of rule changes

AFL: Superstars Luke Hodge and Patrick Dangerfield have slammed the AFL's decision to ban the "third man up” in all ruck contests.

The league said the radical rule change, proposed by the Laws of the Game Committee and approved by the AFL Commission, was made to guarantee the long-term future of the game's big men.

The new rule states: "Only nominated ruckmen will be able to compete at a contest for a throw-in or ball-up, with players no longer permitted to contest a ruck contest as a third man up.”

Hawthorn skipper Hodge and Geelong Brownlow medallist Dangerfield were among those to criticise the move. Hawthorn and Geelong have been regular exponents of a tactic that data shows has exploded in recent seasons.

Hodge tweeted: "No 3rd man ???? Ridiculous.”

"What every player is thinking! #seriously #ridiculous” Dangerfield replied.

In a series of pre-Christmas rule changes, clubs were told:

  • There will be a stricter interpretation of deliberate rushed behinds.
  • Players won't get a free kick for high contact if they drop their knees or raise their arms to make a legal tackle illegal.
  • Punches to the stomach will have a "stricter interpretation”, meaning players are more likely to cop a suspension.
  • Jumper punches with minimal impact will attract a fine.
  • The match review panel will be given the power to recommend a sanction to clubs involved in large melees or multiple breaches in a single season.
  • Charges of engaging in a melee and wrestling will be merged to further discourage repeat offenders.

The future of the third man up rule divided clubs at last month's laws summit, with some wanting the ruck craft to be protected while others were concerned stoppages would become too predictable and congestion would return.

AFL football operations manager Mark Evans said banning players from leaping over the top at ball-ups and throw-ins would safeguard the value of ruckmen.

"These law changes and amendments are in keeping with the AFL's strong stance to protect players against injury and to promote exciting football in all parts of the ground,” Evans said.

"Eliminating the third man up at ruck contests will support the recruitment of tall players and ensure our game continues to be played at the elite level by players of various sizes and differing abilities.”

Defenders shovelling the ball over the goalline for a rushed behind will be put under a bigger microscope, with umpires told to consider pressure applied, distance from the line and whether there has been prior opportunity.

"A stricter interpretation ... is designed to keep the ball in play and promote contested football, which is the preference of our fans,” Evans said.

The days of players winning free kicks for inducing high tackling contact are over. Umpires will call play on when a tackle is reasonable "and the player with the ball is responsible for the high contact”.

The AFL Laws of the Game Committee consists of Brett Burton, Wayne Campbell, Michael Christian, Neil Craig, Chris Fagan, Tom Harley, Chris Judd, Hayden Kennedy, Leigh Matthews, Jack Riewoldt and Evans (chairman).

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