Field Hockey Rules. Obstruction. Backsticks. Different penalties.
The first clip shows a defender deliberately shielding the ball to prevent an opponent making a tackle attempt and also moving bodily into the opponent – who is obliged to retreat to avoid contact (for fear of being penalised for tackling with contact). For some reason, that I cannot fathom, the umpires waves play on until a second attacker tries to get at the ball from the other side of the ball-holder, waits a few seconds, and then awards a penalty corner.
In the first incident in the next clip what looks like a backstick shot at the goal is scored from. Unfortunately the frame rate of the original is low, so the slow-motion is not much help in deciding what happened. The second incident is clearly backsticks but there is some doubt about the intent of the defender and certainly about her Rule knowledge. I say that because if she had knocked the ball off the base-line a penalty corner would have been used as a re-start (an alternative would be much fairer here http://wp.me/pKOEk-Kd ). If she had shielded the ball and ‘crab-walked’ it out of the circle she may not have been penalised at all. The player was obviously shocked to have a penalty stroke awarded against her team because she failed to turn the head of the stick sufficiently.
What surprises me is 1) that a deliberate obstruction, which clearly prevents an opponent playing the ball, is penalised with a penalty corner and not, as it should have been, with a penalty stroke. Why should it not be a penalty stroke? 2) that backsticks continues to be regarded as an offence almost fifteen years after edge hitting was introduced – when it was obviously introduced to circumvent ‘back-sticks’ and in response to a demand for facility to hit the ball from the left of the body – but 3) ball shielding and moving into an opponent while doing so – two offences – are not seen as offences.
In the 2010 World Cup it was obvious that the Chinese team had been coached to avoid giving obstruction (and they played very attractive hockey). This was not as evident in 2012 at the London Olympics, but the habit of movement away rather than turning and blocking was obviously still there. I suppose that by the next World Cup they will obstruct opponents as readily and as deliberately as any of the other top teams – a pity.
One of the justifications given for introducing edge-hitting was that it was very difficult for an umpire to tell if the face of the stick-head or the back of it had been used to strike the ball. That ‘reasoning’ made no sense to me at the time (1999) and still doesn’t. But it makes good sense as an argument to allow the ball to be played with any part of the stick -head.
The reverse edge hit is not an easy stroke to execute (and the ‘hard’ forehand edge hit has been banned because of the difficulty there is in controlling the path and flight of the ball). The incident shown in the video is outside the shooting circle and would be illegal even if not dangerous – the ball has been intentionally lifted with a hit – but too often the stroke is used like that as a means of making a shot at the goal, ’through’ any defender unfortunate enough to get in the way. Unfortunate because it is the defender who is likely to be penalised – even if injured. Another contrast in penalty but this time because of location - and the bizarre notion that an ‘on target’ shot at the goal cannot be dangerous play - rather than the nature of the offence. If that incident had occurred in the circle as a shot at the goal it’s not unlikely that the defender would be penalised for positioning with intent to stop the ball with his body.
Link to Index of Rules http://wp.me/p3tNmd-3