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AFL off the mark on contact: Scott, Buckley

Adam McNicol and Ben Guthrie  May 7, 2013 11:20 AM

Umpire made 'error' Umpire's Boss Jeff Gieschen admits Scott Thompson decision was wrong.
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Chris Scott says umpires are judging marking contests differently this season

If we've been saying you can't bump, block, push or hold in a marking contest, then two of the greatest footballers of all time in Tony Lockett and Jason Dunstall would've been ineffective
THERE is mass confusion about the way contact in marking contests is being adjudicated, two current coaches believe.

Nathan Buckley and Chris Scott on Tuesday said they, and their players, were confused about the rule and how it was being interpreted. 

The controversy gathered steam this week after a contentious free kick was paid against Adelaide's Scott Thompson for a slight push-out at the weekend.

Umpires boss Jeff Gieschen told AFL.com.au on Monday that the umpire had indeed made an error in awarding a free kick against Thompson.

However, Gieschen had previously said pushing, blocking, bumping and holding in marking contests had been outlawed for many years.

At the time, Brisbane Lions midfielder Tom Rockliff said that ruling was "the most bizarre thing I've ever heard."

He isn't the only one confused, with Scott and Buckley adamant the rule is being interpreted differently this season than it has been in the past.

"It all comes down to interpretation," Scott said at Simonds Stadium on Tuesday morning.

"My personal view is that if we've been saying you can't bump, block, push or hold in a marking contest, then two of the greatest footballers of all time in Tony Lockett and Jason Dunstall would've been ineffective.

"It's not a great development in our game."

Buckley said he was unsure what sort of movements players can use when jostling for position.

"All we need to know is how we need to coach it to our players and right now, half a push is OK, but a full push isn't acceptable," he said.

"I don't know what an 80 per cent push (looks like), how that's going to be adjudicated."

Buckley said the current interpretation dictates that players need to be more subtle with their bodywork.
 
He said the free kick paid against Collingwood defender Ben Reid on Anzac Day was 50/50, even though Gieschen said it was the right call.
 
"Really, we coach our players to go to the ball as often and as strong as you can," Buckley said.
 
"There is an art in working your player away from the drop zone, to be able to go an mark it yourself."

The AFL apologised to Adelaide for the free kick paid against Thompson for making contact with Hawthorn's David Hale before taking a mark during the Crows' narrow loss to the Hawks on Saturday.

Scott said the apology only served to further muddy the waters.

"I think you only need to listen the explanations (from the AFL) to understand how difficult it is for umpires," he said.

"I think the explanations are extremely confusing. To say that you can't block, bump, push or hold in a marking contest makes it very difficult to understand how you can make any contact at all."

Scott does not believe the rule needs to be rewritten. Instead, his preference is for the Laws of the Game Committee to be more direct with the umpires.

"I can understand that players are confused and I feel even more sorry for the umpires because I think it's extremely difficult to adjudicate," he said.

Despite his view that the rule is now being interpreted differently, Scott is not about to ask his key position players to change the way they go about their business.

"You've got to be really careful about the really obvious push, where you sort of push them over," he said.

"But the reality is that when two players are competing in a contest they're both pushing against each other, so if one's stronger than the other the push is going to become more obvious.

"Besides the really obvious early push, we're just saying to our players, 'Keep doing what you've always done.'

"We accept that occasionally there'll be some free kicks paid against them that we wouldn't have expected."

Adam McNicol covers Geelong news for AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter at @AFL_AdamMcNicol

Ben Guthrie covers Collingwood news for AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_BenGuthrie