ALASTAIR Clarkson got his wish.
One week after criticising the "dreadful" state of modern footy, blaming the current adjudications of the holding-the-ball rule as a primary reason for its decline, he saw a weekend with a drastic increase in decisions.
I DON'T AGREE WITH CLARKO But there's one rule Gill wants to tighten
After the AFL last week sent a memo to clubs informing them of stricter interpretations around the rule, Champion Data notes that the 91 holding-the-ball free kicks paid in round five was more than 50 per cent higher than the previous season average.
An average of 60 holding-the-ball decisions had been paid throughout the first four weeks of the season, despite the average tackle count sitting at 50 tackles per match throughout that same period.
Round five's spike, which saw 31 more holding-the-ball free kicks paid than the previous average, came despite tackle counts across each of the games over the weekend dipping to 49.6 per match.
So, did the harsher interpretations lead to better footy? Decide for yourself. However, the stats suggest 'no'. Scoring per team dropped from 63.7 points throughout the first four weeks, to just 61.6 points in round five.
Despite seeing his plea come good, Clarkson might have been ruing his words as he watched Hawthorn fall to a 34-point defeat to Greater Western Sydney on a frustrating Sunday evening.
A total of 11 holding-the-ball free kicks were paid in that match. The only issue? The Hawks were on the wrong side of a 1-10 ledger for the night.
Clarkson's anger with the interpretation came after Hawthorn laid 69 tackles last week against North Melbourne, not receiving a single free kick as a result of them. On Sunday, they laid 49 for the benefit of one free kick.
His criticisms were backed up AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan, who said players "should be pinged" for absorbing tackles when they have already had time to dispose of the footy.
"I disagree with him on one thing, you need prior opportunity. You can't have guys taking the ball and not having prior opportunity," McLachlan said.
"(But) 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?"
HOLDING THE BALL DECISIONS
Round 1: 48
Round 2: 62
Round 3: 68
Round 4: 62
Round 5: 91