The AFL's Head of Officiating Stephen McBurney says that umpires will be instructed to not blow their whistle for a ball up if a tackled player still has an arm free to dispose of the ball.

Amid criticism that prompted Gold Coast and Carlton coaches Damien Hardwick and Michael Voss to seek clarity surrounding the 'holding the ball' rule, which saw 131 effective tackles result in a measly four free kicks in Saturday's game, McBurney - the four-time Grand Final umpire - admits there is "some confusion or difficulty" when interpreting each contest.

Hardwick also alluded to the fact that it could put players in vulnerable positions if the whistle blown is delayed, potentially increasing the likelihood of causing injury.

However, McBurney has explained the processes on AFL Media's Footy Feed Extra that umpires go through when judging a tackle and the disposal of the football.

"We've spent a lot of time with the umpires, and they have a very good understanding of what holding the ball is," McBurney said.

"We have to judge prior opportunity first; if the player has had prior opportunity, they must dispose legally by kick or handball. And that's well understood by the fans out there.

"Where we get into some confusion or difficulty is when a player is tackled immediately. In that circumstance, they must make an attempt to kick or handball and if the ball is pinned, it will result in a ball up. If the ball is knocked out in the tackle, we will call play on.

"Curnow was being stood up in the tackle and had reasonable time to then have the free arm with the ball dropped onto his boot and kick the ball away after what the umpire deemed was still a reasonable time.

"The issue or question going forward is the tackler is in an invidious position because if he takes the player to ground and does so dangerously, he risks a free kick or a report.

"We are monitoring that and we are continuing to catalogue examples of where this occurs so we can judge whether we've got reasonable time right or whether we need to address that.

"The critical thing is the umpire cannot blow his whistle for a ball up if the ball has not been pinned. When we see the arm free, we will hold the whistle and see whether the player can dispose."

McBurney said he will continue to have an open dialogue with coaches and football departments at all 18 clubs and encouraged them to send through the vision of specific incidents that require clarification.