Rules of Hockey. Enforcement. Amendment.
There is not much to be found of the 2013 Euronations Final on the Internet, less than four minutes of ‘high-lights’, but even so there are some incidents to comment about within them.
The first is a clear example of obstructive shielding, which is ignored by the umpire, followed by the obstructing player tripping himself up, by running across his opponent while not looking where he was going and getting his legs tangled with those of his opponent – for which he was awarded a free ball (and got belligerent towards the entirely blameless defender)
The second is what looks to be – even with the fuzzy picture and slow frame-rate to be an example of ‘backsticks’. It looks as if the back of the stick-head hits down on the top of the ball and from behind with the face of the stick-head tilted back and up, towards the striker. I would have thought that it would have been clear enough to the Video Umpire that neither the face of the stick nor the back-edge was used to strike the ball. That aside, what is clear is that twenty years after the introduction of edge-hitting, it’s time to abolish the offence of ‘backsticks’.
Even in the days when only the left-side face of the stick could be used to play the ball it was difficult to see the use of the back of the stick-head, now it is simply impossible for an umpire to judge which part of the stick has struck the ball when the type of strike seen in the video is executed. It would make more sense to ban edge-hitting – because controlling lift off an edge-hit is not easy – but allow the ball to be struck with either side of the head. The easiest course, from an umpiring point of view, would be to allow the ball to be played with any part of the stick. Certainly allowing the kind of unpenalised obstruction seen in the first incident is more detrimental to the game than the abolition of the ‘backsticks’ offence would be.
From the deletion of a Rule to the need to reintroduce one in modified form. The pendulum of Rule change has swung from a near total ban on any lifting of the ball into the circle with any stroke, to allowing the aerial clip-hit into the circle from 60m or more.
I think it necessary that a ban be placed on any raising of the ball into the opponent’s circle with a hit that is propelled away from the ball-holder (so not banning the small dinks and clips a dribbler might make to lift the ball over a stick or from one side of his body to the other while going into the circle in possession of the ball). There should also be a ban on lifted deflections of the ball into the opponents circle that are raised to above knee height.
Whether or not a raised flick from close range, propelled away from the ball holder at high velocity into the circle should be controlled by Rule is debatable, but it is easy enough to stipulate that such high velocity flicks, which like raised hits are often made in hope of a favourable outcome rather than as a pass to a team-mate, should not be made from within the hash-circle, that would give some measure of safety to those defending such strokes by giving them slightly more time to react to the path of a raised ball.
The player in the third incident in video above is either trying to ‘win’ a penalty corner (which should not be awarded anyway unless a defender intentionally uses his legs to intercept the ball – not awarding penalty in such circumstances would go some way towards curtailing this sort of ‘hit and hope’) or is hoping for a deflection off a defender that will give opportunity to other attackers for a shot or, if he is very lucky, an own goal. (The withdrawal of the ‘own-goal’ would also help in the reduction of ‘hit and hope’), it is not attractive hockey. Sometimes such hits are made with a forehand edge, which is already a banned stroke, but which I have yet to see penalised as such.
This incident from the WL AUS v FRA match is typical of a common illegal ball raising tactic which is very unevenly umpired. There can be no doubt that the ball was raised intentionally and that the offence disadvantaged the opposing team.
Link to Rule Index http://wp.me/p3tNmd-3