IF PLAYERS battling to break a heavy tag want to attract the umpires' attention, they need to get on the move at stoppages.
That's the advice from experienced field umpire Brett Rosebury after the debate about taggers' tactics flared in the wake of Brent Macaffer's shutdown job on Richmond skipper Trent Cotchin on Friday night.
Rosebury said transgressions stood out more easily to umpires when players were determined to get on the move.
"While they're stationary, it looks like they're both happy to have their arms across each other," Rosebury told AFL.com.au.
As taggers' tactics come under the spotlight, Rosebury said umpires positioned themselves to have a presence in front and behind stoppages, and paid free kicks as they saw them.
He said umpires were always conscious of following the general principle of protecting the ball player and aware enough to watch match-ups closely to ensure no rules were broken.
However, it was difficult to spot every infringement in some games where three or four heavy tags were being applied at every stoppage, he said.
Rosebury, who has umpired 285 games, said that, despite perceptions the umpires were letting the game go more often this season than in the past, they were following the same principle as always when it came to calling for a ball-up.
"We've always been instructed that if the ball is moving then we hold our whistle because there is a chance the ball is going to come out," he said.
What has possibly changed, according to Rosebury, were numbers around the ball, with more players surrounding the football and more players arriving to help when the ball was in dispute. This means the ball can remain on the move but stay in congestion.
There were a similar number of ball-ups at the Richmond v Collingwood game (17) as the Geelong v West Coast game (16) however the Friday night game appeared more congested to the spectator.
"The players are pretty good [and] they are trying to get it going," Rosebury said.
"We've got to find that balance. When it is pinned, get in and get it going again. If it is pinned, don't hold the whistle."
Rosebury said he has had several moments this season where he was about to blow the whistle for a ball-up and then the ball suddenly popped out.
Meanwhile, marking contests remain as difficult as ever to adjudicate but the change in the wording of the rule has caused no problems for adjudicators, Rosebury said.
The word 'unduly' has been included to describe any action or actions that are deemed unreasonable and excessive in a marking contest.
"Where is that line between good bodywork and strength, to what is excessive and taking someone out of play?" Rosebury said. "It's a feel thing and no two marking contests are ever going to be the same."
He did make the observation that forwards seemed more prepared to engage the defenders this season.
Rosebury also said adjudicating the sliding rule required an adjustment for umpires but he thought they were getting better at determining when a free kick need to be paid for forceful contact below the knees.
"Your natural reaction is to pay the high tackle but we're having to train ourselves to delay that whistle and really sum up the whole contest first before you blow the whistle," Rosebury said.
After four rounds he doesn't think the game is more or less difficult to umpire than before, but admits some games with a season are harder than others.
As a rule of thumb those are games where more than 100 tackles occur.
But the umpire, as always, applies the 'pay what you see' principle and continues to search for improvement.
"We are the hardest critics on ourselves every week," Rosebury said.