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At the VAFA Board Meeting on Wednesday night two AFL rule changes were approved effective immediately.

The two laws to be introduced are as follows:

a) A free kick can now be awarded for deliberate rushed behinds – the benefit of the doubt will be given to the defender;

b) Umpires to award a 25 m penalty against players who tackle, hold or make high contact against an opponent after the opponent has disposed of the football, for the purpose of preventing them from taking part in the next contest;

VAFA CEO Michael Sholly said in support of the deliberate rushed behind rule, “We believe this will lead to an even more exciting, continuous and fluent brand of football. The VAFA fully support the inclusion of both laws as it is a fundamental of our game to keep the ball in the play as the main objective. The VAFA has a responsibility to our umpires and our players who aspire to play at a higher level to learn this new skill.”

The trend of deliberate rushed behinds in recent seasons has increased at AFL and VAFA level and the board wishes to discourage this tactic.

“The VAFA tend to mirror AFL strategies whether it is defensive zones, huddles, etc, in our game play. While some might view that in the VAFA we may not see the rule as an issue, we want to be proactive and stop it before it becomes one,” said Michael.

The introduction of a 25 metre penalty, in addition to a free kick, for a player held or dragged down after he had disposed of the ball, was to head off a growing trend whereby players were being taken to ground to prevent them from being involved in the next act of play.

“The VAFA agrees with the AFL that a player has a right to contest without obstruction” Michael added.

VAFA Operations Manager Brian Goodman explained “With four weeks until the first bounce, we as an umpiring group will be diligent in educating our umpires in regard to interpretation of both these laws. We will be encouraging our umpires to enforce these laws to VAFA clubs commencing in practice matches this weekend.”

The new laws read, in full: 


A Free Kick shall be awarded against a Player from the defending Team who intentionally Kicks, Handballs or forces the football over the attacking Team’s Goal Line or Behind Line or onto one of the attacking Team’s Goal Posts. In assessing whether a Free Kick should be awarded under this Law, the field Umpire shall give the benefit of the doubt to the Defender. A Free Kick awarded under this Law shall be taken at the point where the football crossed the Goal Line or Behind Line or from the relevant Goal Post.


When an Umpire is determining whether to award a free kick for a deliberate rushed behind the considerations are:
·          What is the player’s intention?
·          Is the player contesting the ball?
·          What is the degree of pressure the player is under?
·          Was there a team mate in the vicinity of where the ball crossed the scoring line?

For clarification:
·          Players who are contesting the ball in a marking contest or in general play may punch or knock the ball away from their opponents to prevent them from gaining possession of the football or from scoring. This will not be deemed to be deliberately rushed.
·          Where a player is in possession of the football and is tackled near the scoring line, he must dispose of or attempt to dispose of the ball in complying with the laws of the game. A player will receive the benefit of the doubt in this situation.

In summary, the benefit of the doubt will be given to a defender who is under direct pressure in a contest, or whose primary objective is to spoil or touch the ball before it goes through for a goal.


(b) If a field Umpire is satisfied that a Player tackles, holds or makes high contact against a Player who has disposed of the football for the purpose of preventing that Player from being able to run to the next contest then, if it is a greater penalty than would otherwise be provided by Law 15.10(a), the field umpire shall award a free kick and a 25 metre penalty to that Player’s team.

The VAFA have determined to award a 25m penalty unlike the AFL’s 50, to be consistent with our current penalties.