AFL BOSS Gillon McLachlan believes umpires need to be tougher on holding the ball decisions, backing up Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson's call for tighter interpretations on the rule.
Clarkson labelled Sunday night's victory over North Melbourne as "dreadful", lamenting the state of the modern footy and pinpointing the holding the ball rule as one of the most significant reasons for the game's decline.
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The Hawks had 69 tackles on Sunday, but weren't given a single holding the ball free kick as a result of them, with McLachlan agreeing that players are often given too much time in possession.
However, the League's CEO disagreed with Clarkson's view that modern footy is losing its lustre, pointing to a number of other matches across round four that featured some entertaining contests.
"I don't agree with 'Clarko' on the state of the game," McLachlan said.
"There were some cracking games over the weekend and there were some average games … that's football, that's sport.
"I do agree with him on holding the ball … I'm probably going to get myself in trouble here. I disagree with him on one thing, you need prior opportunity. You can't have guys taking the ball and not having prior opportunity.
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"But our players these days are so skilled, so quick … they can take the ball, assess the options so quickly and if they don't like it they'll take the tackle. They've had prior and they should be pinged.
"I think we need to be tougher on holding the ball, I think that prior opportunity needs to be tighter … but I'm just a voice. I'm one person out there. What would I know?"
McLachlan joked that he would subsequently voice his concerns to the AFL's football operations boss Steve Hocking.
"I'm thinking about calling him later today," he grinned.