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Rocky rules: Port gun backs umps over holding-the-ball confusion

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PORT Adelaide midfielder Tom Rockliff says players, supporters and umpires are frustrated with not having a clear idea of how the holding the ball rule should be interpreted.

Umpiring has been a major talking point during the first eight rounds of the season, with plenty of confusion around the holding the ball rule in particular.

In one example, Crows forward Eddie Betts was allowed to play on after dropping the ball in a tackle against Fremantle in round seven.

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The following week, Power midfielder Travis Boak was penalised for not letting go of Crows forward Tom Lynch when he failed to dispose of the ball correctly.

To rub salt into the wound, a 50m penalty was paid against the Power when they believed the original decision went their way, allowing Lynch to kick a goal from right in front in the low-scoring Showdown.

 

Speaking to AFL.com.au, Rockliff said he had sympathy for umpires, who were dealing with changes in how to determine if a player had prior opportunity and if they disposed of the ball correctly.

"I feel sorry for the umpires because the interpretations that they get, week in and week out, there's so many variations and changes for them," Rockliff said.

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"It makes it such a hard game to officiate.

"Incorrect disposal and dropping the ball has just gone out of the game completely, which is disappointing, because I think you still have to reward good tackling and good play like that.

"Now, the way it's being officiated or interpreted, is you can let the ball go and you've made an attempt to get rid of it, which isn't a great look.

"You can see why players and fans, and probably even umpires, get frustrated with it as well because it's so much up in the air and it might vary week in and week out."

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The Power had umpires attend training sessions during the pre-season to get them up to speed on rule changes.

However, Rockliff said there had been noticeable changes of how different rules were officiated during the season.

"As players and as footy people, you just want consistency across the competition," he said.

"You just want consistency week in and week out.

"There's always tinkering early in the season and in the back-end of the year, they let it open up and flow and by finals, it's set.

"We've changed so many rules over the past few years that we just need to leave it alone for a while.

"Let the umpires understand the rules and make sure they're getting them right and don't change the interpretations so it makes the game near-impossible to officiate for the umpires."

Port Adelaide (4-4) hosts Gold Coast at Adelaide Oval on Sunday.