In the sport of Australian rules football, the 50-metre penalty is applied by umpires to a number of different infractions when a free kick or mark has already been paid.
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-off, 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:
Players are given a short period of time to follow the play down the field before the clock is restarted. The player cannot play on while the umpire is measuring out the 50-metre penalty, and must wait for the field umpire to blow time-on.
Infractions which can result in a 50-metre penalty include:
The fifteen-yard penalty was first introduced at senior level by the Victorian Football Association in 1939, as one of the rules included in its rival code of Australian rules football. The rule was introduced to give the umpire a means of penalising a player who cribbed over the mark or wasted time on the mark;under standard rules at the time, such infractions could only be policed by reports. The Australian National Football Council introduced the rule into the national rules during 1954 (leagues began using it in 1955), which was applied to both time-wasting and to crude, late challenges on the player with the mark. The length was increased to 50 metres in 1988 when it was determined that the fifteen metre penalty had become insufficient to deter time-wasting and scragging.
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.
Some observers of AFL Women's football regard the 50-metre penalty as too harsh for the women's game, since it amounts to almost two average length kicks, and since goals from 50-metre penalties have a greater impact on the result of a women's game due to its much lower scores than the men's game.In the 2020 AFLW season up to round four, 5.6% of the league's goals kicked came from 50-metre penalties, compared with only 2.7% per cent of goals in the 2019 2019 AFL men's.
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