AFL 'flinched' on tackling rule: Beveridge

The holding-the-ball rule has come under question following the Hawks-Kangaroos contest.
The holding-the-ball rule has come under question following the Hawks-Kangaroos contest.

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge says the AFL "flinched" in cracking down on the holding-the-ball rule after Alastair Clarkson's complaints, calling on the league to hold its nerve before making adjustments mid-season.

After Hawthorn's win over North Melbourne, Clarkson lamented a lack of holding-the-ball calls and a memo was sent to umpires and clubs last week over the rule interpretation.

It led to holding-the-ball decisions being prominent across round five, with umpires red hot on players who were slow to release the footy.

"I just wish the people involved in the game would just take a breath before they criticise the game and to make sure that we hold our nerve and don't change rules and adjust things on a whim," Beveridge told reporters on Thursday.

"You need more than a one-event sample size to force change and we're too quick to flinch and it's not helping the game and we had a flinch last week and we don't need any more."

Beveridge said Clarkson should continue to express his opinion - but it was up to the AFL to decide whether he was right.

"Clarko's got every right as a statesman of the game to have his opinion and put that across, but it's up to the powers at AFL to work out whether or not they flinch - and they flinched. So we need to be better than that," he said.

"Imagine the challenge for the umpires and the players, that within a week, we have a change or an adjustment.

"We do it too often and it's not acceptable."

Beveridge said making a significant change to a rule or interpretation mid-season struck at the game's integrity.

Clarkson played down his personal influence when responding to Beveridge's comments and said he'd been calling for a tighter interpretation on holding the ball since losing to the Bulldogs in the 2016 semi-final.

"There'll be some in the game - and I am led to believe (Luke Hodge) might have been one of them - that said 'one person's influence shouldn't be enough to change rules'," Clarkson told reporters.

"But if I was significantly influential, then things would have changed (four) years ago when I spoke after the Western Bulldogs final and nothing's changed since then.

"So if it has changed a little bit in the past week, I'm hoping it's for the betterment of the game and not necessarily just for the betterment of the Hawks."

Meanwhile, Beveridge emphasised there was a "tipping point" when it came to reducing the turnaround between games to try to condense the fixture, believing a four-day break should be the minimum.

Clarkson said tighter turnarounds would result in teams using more of their squads, meaning the game's stars play less.

Australian Associated Press