‘Our game’s in a dreadful space’: Alastair Clarkson urges AFL to rethink tackling rules

Four-time premiership coach Alastair Clarkson feels the same frustration many fans do at the current congested state of the game and has called on the AFL to act.

Clarkson declared Hawthorn’s four-point win over North Melbourne at Docklands stadium on Sunday “a terrible spectacle”, with few positives beyond the four premiership points.

Like many others in recent years, certainly this season, the contest got bogged down in slow, unimaginative ball movement, with overpopulated stoppages making for a difficult, albeit close, contest to watch.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has urged coaches to play a more attractive, high-scoring style, but Clarkson believes a simple instruction to umpires from head office to reward the tackler will do the trick.

“The umps are doing what they’re told to do, what’s coaching got to do with it?” Clarkson said.

Todd Goldstein stands with his eyes closed and the ball in front of him with a player in yellow singlet holding onto his leg

Todd Goldstein stands with his eyes closed and the ball in front of him with a player in yellow singlet holding onto his leg

The Hawks laid 69 tackles in the game against North Melbourne.(AAP: Scott Barbour)

“We teach our players to tackle and if a player doesn’t dispose of the ball correctly then the rule book says to blow the whistle and play a free kick.

“But the seagulls aren’t spreading out any more because we’re just not paying the free kick, yet we’ll do one for tiggy-touchwood ruck or marking infringement.

“But they won’t pay the ones for holding the ball.

“It’s frustrating.”

Clarkson was at a loss to explain how his team laid 69 tackles against the Roos and did not receive a single tackle-specific free kick.

“What’s happened to our game? You can’t have that many tackles and not one of them be incorrect disposal,” the coach continued.

“You wonder why the game is an arm wrestle and that you can’t get any open footy.

Geelong coach Chris Scott, after his side’s three-point win over Melbourne, said reducing teams from 18 to 16 players on the field would clearly reduce congestion.

Two AFL players from Geelong and Melbourne pull on each other's jumper as they look to the sky waiting for the ball.

Two AFL players from Geelong and Melbourne pull on each other's jumper as they look to the sky waiting for the ball.

Geelong was ahead of Melbourne by a point at half time in their MCG contest, with both sides kicking just two goals each.(AAP: Michael Dodge)

Clarkson used the Cats-Demons game to illustrate his point.

“The AFL can’t be happy,” he said.

“Two goals each [at half time] on a beautiful winter’s day? No rain and it’s Geelong and Melbourne who I both think will play finals this year.

“Fair dinkum …”

Clarkson urged the AFL to move away from its desire to protect the player making a bid for the ball rather than reward the tackler.

“I’m sorry for shitcanning our own brand and our own club and our own team in this space,” he said.

“But I was so disappointed in the way we played and I was so disappointed with the way that the game is being played right at the present time.

“It’s frustrating and it must be frustrating our fans.”

AAP