Contentious free sparks outcry over holding the ball interpretation
“I thought for all money it was going to be a ball up. The umpires are under pressure and they’re going to make wrong decisions just like we do as players throughout a game. As long as they can sort of consistently get it right, I think the players and coaches and hopefully the fans can understand that and we just push forward from there.”
However, Parkin said he was frustrated because he did not think the umpires were doing a bad job in the first four rounds but the AFL’s reaction had made life difficult for them.
“I did not think we were having any great problem with the holding the man, holding the ball rule,” Parkin said.
“It has become a problem because somehow there has been a philosophical change by somebody.
“We have got a game that is rewarding more often the person that is doing the tackling, chasing and defending than the bloke making the play.
“If I was playing now I would be dwelling on the bloke getting the ball because you have got more chance in that situation of getting a free kick than the bloke making the play.”
Leigh Matthews has also been critical of the rule, while former umpire Shane McInerney said he felt the umpires were not acting on instinct since the interpretation change that the AFL remains adamant was in the works before Clarkson’s comments.
The AFL was yet to respond specifically to the McGrath decision on Saturday, having decided during the week to lecture all officials about their responsibilities to act in the spirit of the game when talking about umpires, rather than penalising coaches such as Alastair Clarkson, Ken Hinkley, Brett Ratten and Geelong players Josh Jenkins and Patrick Dangerfield, who made public comments.
Parkin said the ball players who made the play, such as Carlton’s Patrick Cripps, Dangerfield, Collingwood’s Scott Pendlebury and Fremantle’s Nathan Fyfe, should be rewarded with free kicks if opponents focused on stopping them rather than looking at the ball.
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.