FREMANTLE coach Justin Longmuir has called for more understanding of the difficult decisions players face ahead of collisions, saying he knows why players hesitate when the outcome is uncertain.

Separate marking contests involving West Coast forward Willie Rioli and Fremantle tall Rory Lobb in round one highlighted the different split-second choices players can make before a potential collision, and how each can be criticised.  

Both Rioli and Lobb were slightly behind their opponents in approaching the ball, but while Rioli cannoned into Gold Coast midfielder Matt Rowell and caught him high in a marking contest, Lobb stepped out of the way of Adelaide wingman Jordan Dawson.

The Fremantle forward/ruck avoided what would have been a brutal collision with the potential to land him in trouble with the Match Review Officer, but he was criticised for the decision in the aftermath.   

"I can understand why players hesitate in those moments, because they don't necessarily know the outcome," Longmuir said this week.  

"Someone running full steam thinking they can impact the contest, then at the last second realising they can't, what they do in those situations gets judged by everyone.

"We've got to be careful and understand as a coaching group and as media that those decisions aren't easy.

"What you can do in that split-second to protect yourself or protect the player going for the ball, they're really tough decisions to make and you can be really critical of those players once we get replay after replay and we get slow-mos."

Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir watches on during round one, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Lobb's decision not to impact the contest and bring the ball to ground was criticised by past players and media commentators including Matthew Lloyd and Kane Cornes.    

While Rioli impacted his contest with Rowell and ultimately created a goal for the Eagles, his decision was also criticised and deemed worthy of suspension by the Match Review Officer before being thrown out by the Tribunal.  

The AFL stressed in the aftermath that it considered such actions that resulted in head high contact to be outside the rules, but it did not believe it had sufficient grounds to make a successful appeal.    

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Longmuir said players needed clarity on the rules to help them make those split-second decisions ahead of contests.

"If it's a decision where they can impact the ball we tell our players to impact the ball. But sometimes the consequence is you get someone high," the coach said.  

"One thing I would say is we need real consistency and clarity from the AFL as to what is acceptable and what's not acceptable and what forces players to miss games and what doesn't.

"That will help our players through that decision-making process." 


The AFL's response to the Rioli contest suggests that the next player who makes high contact in a similar collision will draw a suspension. How that penalty is handled if it goes to the Tribunal, however, is less clear.

From a coaching point of view, Longmuir's response shows there is less expectation to risk suspension in order to help your team when making those split-second decisions that Lobb and Rioli faced.    

"I was probably most disappointed that he (Lobb) didn't end up standing the mark and delaying the game a little bit, forcing Dawson to go back," the coach said.