Obstructive tackling


Rules of Hockey. Spin tackle.

What I have termed a spin tackle may have been happening for some time, but I have not noticed it. I can’t recall seeing it during the 2012 London Olympics or the 2014 World Cup. Now however it ‘jumps out at me’ because of the frequency of occurrence – and because it seems to be seldom penalised. 

The first GB player impedes the stick of the USA player and that obstructs her – that should have been penalised with a penalty corner (or possibly a penalty stroke). The umpire either missed that offence or allowed (a dubious) advantage because the USA player did not immediately lose possession of the ball. The GB player appeals for a stick obstruction offence by the USA player and I have to say it is not clear to me because of motion blur, even with video replay, who obstructed who first, but the GB player may have has a case.

The USA player does then lose close control of the ball and the second GB player gets her stick to it and ineffectually jabs at it – but the USA player, who is still in contention for it, immediately spins into a position between the ball and the GB player, barging/backing into her opponent and knocking her stick away while doing so, regains control of the ball and then moves away to give herself room to take a reverse edge shot.

(I don’t know why umpires position close to the base-line and the goal-post, at tournaments where there are video referral facilities, when from that position the umpire could not have seen much of what the USA player did to regain control of the ball.)

So we have a combination breach of Rule 9.12 Obstruction and of Rule 9.13 Tackling with body contact, concurrently by a single individual. These are fouls which usually occur between competing players, a player in possession of the ball who obstructs and an opponent who makes body contact while trying to overcome the obstruction and make a tackle; here is a still of an example of such play:-

But, as they say, the game is developing, it’s getting more like soccer every day. I don’t know what the umpires decision was in the incident shown in the photograph, she may well have allowed play to continue instead of awarding a penalty stroke for the first offence – deliberate obstruction – or even penalised the contact tackle which followed. The Obstruction Rule is intended to prevent this sort of ‘play’ occurring.

The following incident is a straightforward movement to position between an opponent and the ball to dispossess the opponent. This too is soccer-like. There is no possibility of ‘tackling’ on the forehand a player in possession of the ball from the rear left side in this way without body contact, and also obstruction, resulting -even a reverse stick tackle is not easy without making contact from this side, although a great deal easier than it was when the Rule was first framed, a time that stick-heads were much longer and reverse play difficult in any circumstances.

The wrong player was penalised (with both team and personal penalty) in the incident below.

If the ball is beyond the stick reach of chasing players there is a different situation, competing for the ball becomes a foot-race, that was not the case here, the USA player was in possession of the ball when obstructed and physically blocked.

During the incident shown in the video below, instead of attempting to play at the ball with a reverse stick, which would be more usual when attempting a tackle from the left of an opponent and trying to avoid making physical contact, the NED defender goes for a forehand challenge and in doing so inserts himself between the AUS attacker and the ball and then pivots about the ball to ‘lever’ and barge the AUS player off it. A deliberate contact offence contrary to Rule 9.3 and also to Rules 9.12 and 9.13. The award of a penalty stroke would have been an appropriate penalty, together with a yellow card – instead the video referral by the AUS team, who asked for a penalty corner, was rejected. The restart was from a 15m ball  awarded to the NED team. The decisions made in these two incidents were astonishing considering the emphasis placed on penalising break-down tackling, in the umpire coaching video, which was issued prior to the Rio Olympics by the Tournament Umpire Managers.


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