PLAYERS who charge at opponents with their head to try to break out of packs or draw a free kick may be penalised from next year.
However, players wriggling out of tackles to draw free kicks for head-high contact - a skill Geelong star Joel Selwood has perfected - has been deemed within the spirit of the game.
Coaches, player representatives, umpires and key AFL officials discussed ways to address the issue at the AFL Laws Summit held last Wednesday on the Gold Coast.
They agreed the AFL needs to consider ways to stamp out players from charging with their head down to protect them from injury.
Discussion focused on whether a player barging into an opponent in a stationary or near stationary position should have a free kick paid against him, but those at the summit were conscious of also supporting players who initiated play.
One option the Laws Committee will consider is whether a player who grabs the ball and tries to crash into an opponent with his head should be automatically considered to have had prior opportunity if tackled, and have a free kick paid against him if he doesn't dispose of the ball correctly.
AFL football operations manager Mark Evans told AFL.com.au he wanted to find a way to get rid of the habit and umpires would be consulted on developing a rule that would be practical to adjudicate.
However, he said the onus would still remain on the tackler to ensure his actions weren’t rough or reckless when a player led with his head.
There was discussion over players wriggling out of tackles and causing high contact, with the general view that even if it contests were difficult, the tackling player was responsible to tackle correctly.
The Laws Committee is expected to preparation fort the AFL Commission to consider in December.
Coaches also agreed that bumping rules needed to be straightforward and consistently enforced. They accept that if a player chooses to bump and makes forceful head contact, he will be reported unless there is no other way he could make a contest.
AFL.com.au understands that coaches expect a head clash similar to that between North Melbourne's Lindsay Thomas and Collingwood's Ben Reid in round one this year would result in the initiator being reported, but any change is still subject to AFL Commission approval.
In the round one incident, Reid left the field bloodied but Thomas was cleared because the contact was deemed accidental.That decision left many observers confused at the time, as it appeared Thomas as the initiator of the bump had avoided his obligation not to make forceful head high contact.