Luke Beveridge has warned the AFL to protect the ball carrier or risk changing the charter of the game as the league continues to implement tweaks to the holding-the-ball rule.

The Western Bulldogs players were penalised repeatedly during their 43-point loss and trailed the tackle free-kick count 7-2 at half-time.

Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has concerns about tweaks to the holding-the-ball rule.

Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has concerns about tweaks to the holding-the-ball rule.Credit: AFL Photos

“In the AFL’s charter, it talks about our game being a contested game,” Beveridge said in his post-match press conference.

“So, and in the charter, you have to protect the player who tries to win the ball, so we can’t move away from that. Otherwise, the game changes.

“What happened last week was a reaction to some feedback from some senior coaches, but they were talking about situations where players were standing up in tackles, and the request was for the whistle to be blown a bit earlier, whether they’ve had prior opportunity or not, just blow it earlier.

“But now that’s been taken into situations where players have been taken to ground.”

On a number of occasions the Bulldogs players were penalised inside the Lions’ 50m arc for holding the ball, resulting in shots on goal. The Lions finished the night ahead in the free-kick count 24-16, while finishing marginally ahead in tackles 50-49.

The Lions’ Kai Lohmann is tackled by Bulldogs champion Marcus Bontempelli.

The Lions’ Kai Lohmann is tackled by Bulldogs champion Marcus Bontempelli.Credit: Getty Images

“When a player has not had prior opportunity, we’ve got to make sure that we protect the player,” Beveridge said.

“I’m not talking about tonight. I’m just talking about the game in essence. We need to protect the guy who wins the footy and gets tackled straight away. We need to make sure we get back to making sure we’re in sync with, as I said, the spirit of the game.”

He said he was not going to comment on umpiring from Friday night’s clash in which his side slipped to 6-7 for the season, while the Lions were able to breathe life into their season, coming off a bye and now sit 5-6, with a draw, after 13 rounds.

“What’s happened is now the game has evolved and changed within the space of two weeks, and it’s risky now and a concern if we’re not looking after the ball winner,” Beveridge said.

“I watched every game last week, and we’re only in the infancy of this round, but the priority should be now to make sure that whoever’s winning the footy is looked after. And people have said, get rid of the prior opportunity rule. But if you do, it’s a very different game.

“If you have got players who are hesitant to go and go and win it, we don’t want to be there. So yeah, the AFL has got a challenge on their hands.”

Beveridge was critical of his players lacking discipline, in particular returning midfielder Tom Liberatore who gave up a free kick in the opening minute of the game by jumper punching Lions tagger Jarrod Berry after teammate Adam Treloar had kicked the first goal.

“Just when we were looking, you know, that we might get a bit of momentum in the game, we just gave away free kicks,” Beveridge said. “There were free kicks, left, right and centre, just to halt the momentum, and we just couldn’t get any rhythm.

“You put that down to their source pressure game, they rushed us and we didn’t cope with it as well as we needed to.”