UMPIRES have been instructed not to pay free kicks to players who they believe are responsible for drawing high contact from tacklers. 

The AFL's head of umpiring, Dan Richardson, said the rules would 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," he said. 


After a spate of recent high-contact free kicks sparked widespread debate, the AFL wrote to clubs on Tuesday to clarify how high tackles should be adjudicated. 

If the ball carrier has no prior opportunity to dispose and is responsible for creating the high contact through a shrug, drop or arm lift, play on should be called. 

Collingwood's Jack Ginnivan – who has been at the centre of the storm – was correctly called to play on against Adelaide on Saturday after he dropped his knees, therefore lowering his body height, to draw the high contact.

Jaidyn Stephenson tackles Jack Ginnivan during North Melbourne's clash with Collingwood in round 17, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

A free kick paid to Melbourne's Kysaiah Pickett in the round 18 win over Port Adelaide, when he used a shrug to create the high contact from Tom Jonas, should have been called play on.

However, the AFL acknowledged that the umpire's view of Jonas' tackle on Pickett – from behind, making it hard to see Pickett's shrug – made it difficult for the right call to be made. 

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AFL clarifies high tackle rule

Watch examples that illustrate the AFL's stance on players drawing high tackles

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Where the tackle is applied, and there is prior opportunity, and the ball carrier creates the high contact through any of the above means, they will be penalised with holding the ball.

As always, the ball carrier must be protected against indiscriminate tackles that make high contact.

Richardson said the duty of care remained 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.

He added: "We want to be clear, if the umpire believes the ball carrier is responsible for the high contact, then they won’t be rewarded."