Let’s make one thing very clear, coaches determine if players hold on to the ball or release it.
Game reviews are brutal both as a group and one on one. Coaches hate the ball released to a 50/50 situation or – worse still -directly to an opponent. Coaches like to control the game to within an inch of its life and in doing so demand that players hold on to the ball, create a ball up and start again.
Coaches have become so risk averse that the game presents a neutral Mexican stand off on too many occasions.
Interestingly come serious finals time the shackles are released and teams take many more risks.
Players can release the footy in a nanosecond – believe me. They do it when it suits but when it doesn’t they revert to holding the ball close to their chest & absorbing the tackle. On most occasions it’s a ball up, “let’s structure up and start again” – mission accomplished.
The rule doesn’t say you must have a team mate in the direct vicinity to release the footy to, however coaches demand it, players fulfil it and umpires accomodate.
By holding ball close to chest the tackler is able to wrap the player up completely and subsequently he has no hands free to protect the fall. The result is sometimes concussion.
There was a phase when players raised their arms to avoid being wrapped up and released footy to team mate.
When was the last time you saw a player raise his arms in this manner? Interesting isn’t it. Coaches have decided it’s unreliable and asked for more security by creating a ball up.
In essence players are putting themselves into vulnerable positions at the request of their coaches.
Unfortunately, media, AFL & others are looking at the effects and ignoring the causes. The effects are dramatic. Nobody wants to see concussed players. Like boxers, AFL players need to protect themselves at all times.
The answer is to pay holding the ball to any players that are caught with the footy standing up. The upside is the ball is kept alive and released to a contested situation. This is what gets fans on the edge of their seats. There is nothing more deflating for the game than a ball up. When the ball is kept alive it creates a manic anticipation & excitement for fans – albeit too much for the coaches to handle.
If the ball is released just prior or during tackle – irrespective of where it lands – the player has his arms free and can protect his fall or even better still, tackler will release otherwise a free kick will be the result.
Players are concussed and it’s somewhat of a badge of honour because its avoidable. Coaches need to have the courage and conviction to direct their players to release the footy. This is not the tacklers fault.