Former Essendon captain Tim Watson is expecting a crackdown on holding the ball early on in Round 5, after a week of the rule being in the spotlight.

Everyone from Alastair Clarkson to Leigh Matthews to Gillon McLachlan has weighed in on whether prior opportunity rules need to be adjusted in order to help ease congestion in the game.

Watson now expects Thursday night’s Carlton versus St Kilda game in particular to be hotly officiated.

“I think it’s going to be a hot potato this weekend given the focus on it,” he told SEN Breakfast.

“It will be (an overreaction). It’ll be an overreaction on Thursday and then by Sunday it will be pulled back a little bit.”

Leigh Matthews and Alastair Clarkson disagree on whether tacklers need to be rewarded more, with Clarkson wanting more free kicks paid and Matthews wanting the player attacking the ball to be given the benefit of the doubt.

Watson says he falls somewhere in the middle on the topic.

“I think they’re half right and they’re half wrong. I think this, and I said it before Clarko spoke on the weekend, the players can get rid of the ball if they want to in the blink of an eye,” he said.

“I’m not saying every circumstance they’re caught in a tackle that they’re aware is about to be laid, but there’s situations where if they really wanted to release the ball they could release the ball.

“They’re the ones that are going to be the most difficult ones to adjudicate.”

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