Cam Zurhaar breaks a tackle from Jeremy Howe during the R14 match between North Melbourne and Collingwood at Marvel Stadium on June 16, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

THE AFL has declared itself satisfied with how its in-season holding the ball interpretation has played out, believing players have already adjusted to the rule tweak in the three rounds since the changes were made.

The League announced in late May that players would be given less time to dispose of the ball after being tackled, cracking down on those who were "challenging the definition of reasonable time" to get rid of the footy.

The interpretation was made after the AFL assessed feedback from clubs, delivering them examples of what would and wouldn't be deemed holding the ball and clarifying how the rule would be officiated going forward.

The new interpretation has seen the total number of holding the ball calls rise from 8.2 per game, before the adjustment was made, to 9.8. However, only one form of holding the ball has significantly increased.

'No genuine attempt' decisions have risen from 0.2 per game to 1.8, the only overwhelming increase among holding the ball calls, with 'prior opportunity' (6.5 to 6.7), 'incorrect disposal' (0.7 to 0.7) and 'dive and/or drag' (0.8 to 0.6) consistent with beforehand.

It comes as the AFL moved to clarify that when a player has not had prior opportunity, making a genuine attempt to dispose of the footy would overrule whether than attempt led to the ball being disposed of.

Taylor Walker fends off Caleb Windsor's tackle in Adelaide's clash with Melbourne in round four, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"What's really important to me is that we are transparent. As required, we are explaining things and we're articulating to fans and articulating to people watching our game what's happening," the AFL's football boss Laura Kane said on Wednesday.

"That's not something we will stop doing. We want to make sure that people understand what's going on on the field and what's going on off the field. It's been a really important focus area for me and it's something we'll continue to do."

The new holding the ball interpretations came about due to players being held upright in tackles for longer, a byproduct of the positive effects of footballers no longer using excessive force to bring their opponents to ground.


"The fact that we had to make an in-season interpretation change because players were tackling each other more safely is a good problem to have," Kane said.

"We expected to see an uptick in holding the ball free kicks. The first week, it was an average of about two per game. The second week, it came down a little bit. The average now is just over one. We're really pleased with those numbers.

"We're really pleased that players have been able to adjust their tackling technique to protect opposition players and protect their peers."