Aaron Naughton is helped off the field after hurting his knee during the Western Bulldogs' loss to Sydney in round 11, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

ESSENDON legend Matthew Lloyd says the AFL needs to follow the lead of the National Rugby League (NRL) and outlaw the 'hip-drop tackle' to help prevent serious leg injuries.

Aaron Naughton has been sidelined for at least a month after suffering a medial ligament injury against Sydney on Thursday night when Swans defender Lewis Melican wrapped his legs around the Western Bulldogs forward's right leg to tackle him to the ground.

Amid debate about the holding the ball rule and calls for umpires to blow their whistle faster when a player is tackled, Lloyd said such a tackle is a serious injury waiting to happen.

"This is the Melican tackle on Naughton that I think needs to be outlawed from the game,” Lloyd said on Access All Areas.

"It's a wrestling, grappling type manoeuvre where he locks both his legs around the leg of Naughton and Naughton's leg has nowhere to go.

"I don't know if it's a tactic or something Melican does himself, but I think it should be outlawed. It should be a suspension.


"If I were the AFL, I'd come out this week and say it's outlawed."

The NRL cracked down on the hip-drop tackle four years ago and multiple players have copped lengthy suspensions in the years since. In 2022, Brisbane player Pat Carrigan was banned for four weeks for a tackle that broke the leg of Wests Tigers opponent Jackson Hastings.

In March, the National Football League (NFL) franchise owners in the United States unanimously voted to remove the hip-drop tackle for the upcoming season.

A similar incident in Saturday's game between Carlton and Gold Coast, when Suns defender Mac Andrew wrapped his legs around Blues forward Charlie Curnow in a tackle, drew the ire of Suns coach Damien Hardwick, who said the slowness with which umpires are blowing the whistle are putting players "in a really compromising position" and warned of serious injuries.


"We've just got to get on top of this," he said.

"The players owe each other a duty of care, but as umpires we've got to blow the whistle earlier.

"They're putting players in a really compromising position that they could get hurt, and we don't want that."

Stephen McBurney, the AFL's Head of Officiating, said on Monday that "player safety is imperative" as he defended the way umpires are interpreting holding the ball.


In clarifying that players, like Curnow in the Andrew tackle, who have an arm free to dispose of the ball will be given "reasonable time" to do so, McBurney conceded tacklers can be left in an "invidious position" as they look to bring the player to ground in a safe and legal way.

"The issue or question going forward is the tackler is in an invidious position because if he takes the player to ground and does so dangerously, he risks a free kick or a report," he told Footy Feed Extra.

"We are monitoring that and we are continuing to catalogue examples of where this occurs so we can judge whether we've got reasonable time right or whether we need to address that.

"The critical thing is the umpire cannot blow his whistle for a ball up if the ball has not been pinned. When we see the arm free, we will hold the whistle and see whether the player can dispose."