Some (particularly amateur) leagues and competitions use a 25-metre penalty. Examples of this include the South Australian National Football League (SANFL), Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA), Australian Football International Cup and the Australian Amateur Football Council.
When the umpire pays a 50-metre penalty, he calls time on, measures out approximately fifty metres from the spot of the mark by running in a straight line towards the goals, and setting the new mark, unless:
- the player is already within 50 metres of goal, in which case the mark becomes the exact centre of the goal line.
- in the Australian Football League's (AFL's) NAB Cup preseason competition, where a goal kicked from beyond 50m scores nine points instead of six, a team may choose to cut short a fifty-metre penalty at the fifty-metre line and take the higher-value, longer-range set shot.
Players are given a short period of time to follow the play down the field before the clock is restarted.
A player cannot play on after the field umpire has called a 25-metre or 50-metre penalty. The field umpire must blow time-on.
Infractions which can result in a 50-metre penalty include:
- Arguing with, disputing the decision of, or using abusive language towards an umpire.
- Scragging the player who has taken a mark; that is, to tackle the player or impede him from taking the kick as quickly as he would like. This rule has been applied more stringently since 2006 to give defensive players less time to flood the defence, and to keep the game more flowing.
- Running over the mark; the man standing on the mark cannot move forward, and must respond if called to recede by the umpire.
- Failing to return the ball quickly and on the full to a player who has been awarded a free kick, again to prevent flooding.
- Wasting time, deliberately or inadvertently, by kicking the ball forward after one's team has conceded a free kick.
- Using unnecessary roughness against a player who has already taken a mark.
- Running through the mark; defensive players may not run across the imaginary line between the man standing the mark and the man taking the kick, unless following his direct opponent.
- Entering the protected zone; defensive players may not impede an opponent by entering or remaining within the corridor of space extending five metres either side of the imaginary line between the man standing the mark and the man taking the kick, and extending backwards, unless following his direct opponent.
- If any free kick infraction is paid against the defensive team while a mark or free kick is to be taken, the umpire either pays the free kick to the violated player at the spot of the foul, or awards a 50-metre penalty to the player with the ball, depending upon which penalty brings the attacking team closer to goal.
- Any free kick resulting from an interchange infringement or a line-up has an additional 50-metre penalty applied to it; these are the only circumstances under which a 50-metre penalty is automatically applied to a free kick without further infringement.
History in the VFL/AFL
The rule was first introduced into the Victorian Football League (the predecessor to the Australian Football League) in 1955 as a 15 yard/metre penalty, which was applied to crude, late challenges on the player with the mark. In 1984, umpires began to apply 15-metre penalties for time-wasting. It was increased to 50 metres in 1988 when it was determined that the fifteen metre penalty was insufficient to deter such behaviour.
Fifty metres is the average length of a long kick. As 50-metre penalties are awarded only to players who have already taken a mark or been awarded a free kick, the penalty is the equivalent of having made a long pass downfield (with the playing area being over 150m long). This interpretation allows the fifty metre length to be adjusted to appropriate values for lower age groups.
With the exception of interchange infringements, a player must already have a free kick or a mark to receive a 50-metre penalty. Often, crowds will call for "fifty!" when they see a player hurt behind play or in a marking contest. However, many fans are unaware that unless the mark is taken, fifty metres can never be awarded. There was an exception to this rule made in 2000, when a 50-metre penalty would automatically be awarded against any player who was reported for a non-wrestling offence; so unpopular was the change that it was repealed after seventeen rounds.
Notable 50-metre penalties
- The most famous 15-metre penalty occurred in the 1987 preliminary final, in an incident where Melbourne's Jim Stynes ran across the mark against Hawthorn. Gary Buckenara, needing a 55-metre goal after the final siren for Hawthorn to steal the victory, was brought 15 metres closer to goal. Buckenara converted the goal, Hawthorn advanced to the Grand Final, and Melbourne's long premiership drought continued.
- In 2005 an incident where Essendon's Mark Johnson called an opposition player from Sydney a "weak dog" when he wouldn't get up and was playing for a free kick was rewarded with a 50-metre penalty to the Sydney player. It was also believed Johnson engaged in abusive language with the umpire which may have influenced the decision.
- During the infamous St Kilda vs Fremantle "Sirengate" match in round 5, 2006, St Kilda full-forward Fraser Gehrig abused and argued with the umpire, gave up five consecutive free kicks: a free kick in defensive goal square, three consecutive 50-metre penalties (spanning the entire length of the field, yielding a certain goal to Fremantle) and an additional free kick to Fremantle after the goal.
- In Round 1, 2007, umpire Stuart Wenn awarded a short fifty-metre penalty against Collingwood's Heath Shaw after a mark by the Kangaroos' Shannon Grant with three minutes remaining on the game. Wenn positioned Shaw approximately on the kick-off line when he should have been on the goal line. Grant missed the 15-metre set shot, and the Kangaroos lost the game by three points.
- In Round 11, 2009, triple 50 metre penalties occurred when Sydney Swans' Barry Hall put his arm around the neck of Hawthorn's Jarryd Roughead, who ended up in his own goal square. Hall was benched beside his coach, and Sydney lost by just 11 points.
- St Kilda Football CLub, 2011 NAB Cup Trial Rules, 15 December 2010, Retrieved 5 February 2011.
- Field Umpire Accreditation Manual (Australian Football League)
- Kevin Hogan (7 April 1955). ""Get tough" order given umpires on new rule". The Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne, VIC). p. 33.
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- Barry Hall brain explosion gifts Hawks game | Herald Sun