AFL Statement

The AFL wishes to provide clarity to fans and media commentators on high tackles and how umpires have been instructed to officiate high tackles during season 2022. 

High tackles
Where the tackle is reasonably applied, there is no prior opportunity and the ball carrier is responsible for the high contact via a shrug, drop or arm lift – play on should be called.
Where the tackle is reasonably applied, and there is prior opportunity, and the ball carrier is responsible for the high contact via a shrug, drop or arm lift – holding the ball should be called.
If a player has their head over the ball and trying to gain possession and contact is high, a free kick for high contact will be called.
The following table of examples explains how the rule is applied.

If ‘play on’ is called the ball carrier must successfully dispose of the football to avoid Holding the Ball (HTB) being paid against.
It is important to always note, the ball carrier retains protection against indiscriminate tackles
The above situation analysis is the anchor point in which the decisions are made on-field, however there are numerous factors that also come into play – including umpire’s line of sight at the time of decision – which can be different to that of the broadcast.
AFL Head of Umpiring Dan Richardson said: “First and foremost, players attempting to win the ball must be protected and the onus on duty of care is on the tackler. However, having won the ball, the ball carrier has a duty of care to not put themselves in a position for high contact.” Richardson said.
“Ultimately, the rules do not reward players for putting themselves in vulnerable positions to draw a free kick. This is something we prefer not to see in our game at any level.

“We want to be clear, if the umpire believes the ball carrier is responsible for the high contact, then they won’t be rewarded.
“Our umpires strive to get every decision right, every single time, however there are instances where, just like players, decisions are made at full speed at ground level without the benefit of slow-motion replay.
“The health and safety of players is the primary concern of both the AFL and the clubs, and we will continue to work with clubs, their coaching panels, as well as players to ensure the safety of the game.”