Drum roll please…
We canvassed your opinions on what the correct call is for this FHA inside the hash line. Now, here's the answer from the FIH umpires who were on the game.
The verdict is: play on.
As you'll recall, the FIH guidance set out very clearly that when a free hit for the attack is taken within the 5m hash line, “[d]efenders who are inside the circle within 5 metres of the free hit are [therefore] not interfering with play” because the attacker cannot play the ball directly into the circle. The key is that once the second attacker touches the ball, the free hit rules are off, so a defender who had been caught within the 5m zone is legal to attempt a tackle.
At the end of the day, defenders will be coached how to properly deal with this play. What we see occurring now is that defenders caught within 5m holding their places, but so do defenders who were outside the 5m zone also stand and watch even once the ball is in play, rather than stepping up to attempt a tackle (which they may legally do). Players will make the adjustment and this play won't be the surprise it is right now.