RICHMOND coach Damien Hardwick has called for the AFL to scrap prior opportunity as a way to remove the confusion regarding holding-the-ball.

The rule and its application have come under scrutiny since St Kilda coach Brett Ratten lamented his side earning just three free kicks from 86 tackles against Geelong on Friday night.

Hardwick said it was up the AFL to make life easier for umpires.

REWARDED OR RAW DEAL? Tackle stats reveal truth behind Saints' gripe

"Prior opportunity just makes the umpires' job harder," he said on Wednesday.

"Put the pressure on the players, the players adjust really quickly.

"We've seen how quickly they've adjusted to the man on the mark rule.

"If we put the rule in place that the players have to get rid of it, they'll start tapping it, they'll start kicking."

Damien Hardwick before the round eight match between the Tigers and the Cats at the MCG on May 7, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Hardwick referenced Essendon great and former teammate Michael Long as a great exponent of keeping the ball alive.

"The amount of handballs we see now – if we go back in the course of time and look at history, the players used to kick it. Now, under pressure, they will handball," the three-time premiership coach said.

"If we take away prior opportunity, [it] probably reduces congestion around that.

"Back in the old days you knew you were going to get tackled and knock it on.

"You tap the ball to your advantage, you kick it off the ground, or you kick it long.

"The really smart players will become smarter."

Essendon's Michael Long in action during the 2000 Grand Final against Melbourne. Picture: AFL Photos


Chris Fagan, whose Brisbane Lions the Tigers will face at the Gabba on Friday night, had similar thoughts.

Fagan said players who did not handball or kick the ball after they were tackled should be immediately penalised.

"Sometimes the tackler knocks the ball out and that's the thing the umpire has to assess but if that's not the case I think that's the simplest way to look at it," Fagan told 3AW.