The tackle, the tackle, the tackle.....so much debate, so much controversy.
Firstly, lets see what the GAA say
The tackle is a skill by which a player may dispossess an opponent or frustrate his objective within the rules of fair play. The tackle is aimed at the ball, not the player.
The tackler may use his body to confront the opponent but deliberate bodily contact is forbidden (such as punching, slapping, arm holding, pushing, tripping, jersey pulling or a full frontal charge).
The only deliberate physical contact can be a fair charge, i.e. shoulder-to-shoulder with at least one foot on the ground. More than one player can tackle the player in possession.
Lets face it, from a coaching point of view, the only clearly defined aspects are "DO NOT PULL A JERSEY", "DO NOT TRIP", " DO NOT HOLD AN ARM" - as these are the only fouls that are black or white, you either did or you didn't. Everything else is a little unclear, as the rules are telling us that the tackle must only be aimed at the ball. This is where the problem is, and hence the tackle is really up to the digression of the referee.
If you are a coach and your objective is to get the ball back, you will say to your players
Try closed fist, you might get away with it
Try Vice Tackle - Getting 2 arms around the player, you might get away with it
Try what ever you want, and see if the ref is ok with that, and if they are, continue to do it.
So what is the simple solution?
The solution might be simpler than we think. If we provide the tackler with more opportunity to tackle the ball, then the problem might solve itself. They key to good defending will then revert back to quick feet, good control of the body, and good hand eye coordination, and quick hands, not who is the strongest and most aggressive.
In basketball, once a player starts to bounce the ball, they cannot use two hands at any stage during the dribble, and once the player grabs the ball in 2 hands they must immediately stop dead.
If we adopted something similar in gaelic football, would this help us define the tackle?
A player wins the ball, and begins to solo/bounce, but they now cannot take the ball back into 2 hands, or once they do they have 4 seconds to get rid of it, they can't start to solo or bounce again.
This rule change would provide 2 clear opportunities to get a tackle aimed at the ball in.
- When the player is soloing only having the ball back in 1 hand means the ball is not as secure and easier to tackle - use a near hand tackle, ( a skill which is currently useless to a defender )
- When the player has stopped - shadow your opponent closely for 4 seconds, and get a hand on the ball when they either go to fist it or kick it( they then only have 2 options).
The final part of the jigsaw would only be to allow 1 player to tackle 1 player at a time. This could be the hardest part to implement, as at what point can another player come in.
This may not be the perfect solution, but something needs to be done to help ensure consistency across the board, as this is all players, referees, and supporters really want.