NIGGLE: Dustin Martin (left) and Nick Robertson
NIGGLE: Dustin Martin (left) and Nick Robertson JULIAN SMITH

Crackdown on off-ball striking can fix 'greatest blight'

ST KILDA coach Alan Richardson has led a chorus of AFL past and present coaches calling for off-ball niggling and striking to be stamped out of the game.

The striking debate was once again raised following the tactics used by Brisbane's Nick Robertson against superstar Richmond midfielder Dustin Martin.

Speaking on AFL 360, Richardson gave an insight as to how he would treat offenders if he was an umpire.

"I think there is a great opportunity for the game. We do really good work to try and make sure the game is a great spectacle," he told Fox Footy.

"I think if the good players have the opportunity to play the game then the game is going to be in a really good space.

"If I was an umpire and I saw a player that was not given the best opportunity to play, you can still be physical and aggressive, but you take him out of the play then I would pay a free kick.

"I'll tell you what the coach will do immediately once his player has given away a free kick, the message will go down - stop doing that.

"You can still compete fairly, aggressively and physically. I reckon too often umpires ignore stuff off the footy that should be paid."

Geelong coach Chris Scott was in total agreement with his St Kilda counterpart.

"I think I've heard a really logical view on this, there's such a thing as holding the man," he told Fox Footy.

"If you grab a guy 80m off the ball, it should be a free kick.

"I run the risk of being accused of being a little hypocritical, given the way I played as a defender off the ball, but one thing I know is players throughout every era were playing to the rules of the day."

Essendon great Tim Watson told Talking Footy niggle had a certain part to play in the game, but only to a legal extent.

"I think there is some niggle that goes on in the game that is an acceptable part of the game, if it's a push or a shove," he told Channel Seven.

"Players are actually now using their forearm to smash into players, whether they smash into their back when they're not looking, they smash into their side, they smash into their arm - it's a form of striking.

"We have to clean it up in the game; it's the greatest blight on our game that we allow this type of behaviour to continue on.

"It's easy to clean up. All we need to do is pay a free kick; it's a strike off the ball."