Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Talking Hockey: A safe change to the free hit rule for the better

Free hits in the 23 can go directly into the circle safely, writes Peter D’Cruz

The current rule that all free hits in the attacking 23m area, including the long corners, must travel five metres before entering the circle was introduced to ensure player safety.

On some 23m free hits, teams would blast the ball into the circle hoping for a foot foul or a ball being raised dangerously by the defenders therefore resulting in a penalty corner. The raised ball was dangerous for players on both teams.

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Peter D’Cruz is the founder of the Hockey Curriculum for Players & Coaches

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  1. Completely agree that the rule should allow the ball to be carried into the circle irrespective of whether it travels 5m. But a decision would have to be made as to whether to allow the defender in the circle to make a challenge before they get 5m away. If so, then some of the advantage of the self-pass is lost. If not then the attacker gets a free shot, which seems to overly reward the winning of the foul outside the D.

    Adapting the drilling rule from indoor to outdoor is something that I would like to see, but even indoor the call is often disputed. And players still frequently get hurt as a result of drilling, even though it is a foul. In an outdoor context, the risk is likely to be greater because lifting of the ball is much more likely, so while the adaptation of the rule may result in a fairer outcome, but we would almost certainly see a return to the problems of dangerous delivery that led to the change in the first place.

  2. The suggested updated rule accommodates for scenarios such as these which weren’t outlined in the article for the sake of brevity:

    1. The free hit is taken in the right mid-field channel just inside the 23. A pass is made diagonally from right to left and the ball enters the circle in the left mid-field channel, a clean trap is made by an attacker who takes a shot on goal.

    2. An attacker is fouled, not deliberately, outside the circle. She takes the free hit quickly as the ball is right next to her and makes a push pass into the circle to a teammate who has evaded her marker (someone who had that one-second nap when the whistle went). A clean trap and a push on goal happens.

    In neither case has anything dangerous happened. These two scenarios occurred numerous times in games all over the world prior to the current rule being instituted. We need to get back to the past and return these attacking play opportunities to hockey.

  3. Peter – I agree with you. But the scenarios you outline are not the ones that led to the rule being changed. It was the crash ball into the D in the hope of an outcome that was neither pretty nor – in many cases – safe. Yes, it would result in a foul, but the striker may elect to take a chance in the hope that they find a gap, which is exactly what we see indoor with drilling. That doesn’t mean that your suggestion would not improve the game. I think it would. But it would be unrealistic to believe that we will not see more injuries as a result, especially immediately following the change, and especially at lower levels where control of the ball is lower. Again, you may feel that this is a risk worth taking and that players would adapt. That may be correct, but we have to at least acknowledge the risk.


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