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AFL targets ruck duels, tackles in rules shake-up

Football

Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge quickly made his disapproval clear after the AFL banned the third man up at ruck contests.

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Hodge went on Twitter only a few minutes after the AFL officially banned extra players being involved in ruck duels around the ground.

“No 3rd man ???? Ridiculous,” Hodge messaged.

The ban follows an increased use of the tactic, where an extra teammate would jump at a ball up around the ground or a throw in.

The AFL said it decided to ban the tactic after looking at ruck contests over the last two seasons.

“Eliminating the third man up at ruck contests will support the recruitment of tall players and ensure our game continues to be played at the elite level by players of various sizes and differing abilities,” AFL football operations manager Mark Evans said.

Only nominated players can now compete in any ruck duel.

The league said that after analysis of third-man up contests over the past two seasons, “it was determined there was no discernible advantage to the game when this tactic was used”.

“The Law change also supports the recruitment of tall players with a specific skill set, with injury to ruckmen another factor considered by the Commission,” it said.

“The removal of the third man up is expected to make a ruck contest easier to adjudicate.”

The league also announced a stricter interpretation on deliberate rushed behinds, “designed to keep the ball in play and promote contested football, which is the preference of our fans”, and moved to simplify the interpretation around high-contact free kicks.

“Umpires will be instructed that whether a tackle is reasonable should always be their first assessment when adjudicating high contact,” the league stated.

The match review panel will crack down on so-called tummy taps next season, with players more likely to be suspended for punches to the midriff.

-AAP

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