Match Review Panel leaves us perplexed again
As if predicting an impending, contentious decision from the Match Review Panel, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick and North Melbourne’s Daniel Pratt pleaded with the MRP for a bit of consistency in the wake of Trent Cotchin’s report on Sunday. They didn’t get it.
There’s no doubting Cotchin’s hit on North’s Sam Wright was late and reckless.
It left the Kangaroos youngster groggy and staggering off the ground, before he was taken to hospital with a bad case of concussion.
Ignoring the impact, though, the incident wasn’t dissimilar to a Round 1 hit from Essendon’s David Hille on Geelong’s Jimmy Bartel, which saw the Bombers bigman reported but went unpunished.
In that instance, Hille was late and reckless, but Bartel got up afterwards and was fine to play on. He still copped a heavy hit, though.
Post-game on Sunday, Hardwick highlighted the similar examples and subtly floated the idea of Cotchin getting off.
“We just hope the consistency level that they have adjudicated that one over the course of the season (continues),” he said. “’It was very similar, I think to the David Hille incident earlier in the year so we’ll see how that one pans out.”
It panned out surprisingly with the Match Review Panel stating: “The incident was assessed as reckless conduct (two points), high impact (three points) and high contact (two points).” In effect, a four-game ban reduced to three with an early plea.
It was a staggering suspension, especially considering the precedent of Hille’s case.
It also beggars belief when you hear North coach Brad Scott say ‘we didn’t think there was anything untoward in it at all’.
Indeed, to punish a player with a three-week suspension for a split-second mistake is overly harsh, especially considering their appeared little malice in it and came from a player who previously had no existing record.
The harshness of Cotchin’s ban is particularly reinforced by the fact Hille escaped punishment earlier in the year for a very similar incident.
In that case, the MRP generously claimed: “Hille had his eyes on the ball and was attempting to take a chest mark. He turned to brace himself for contact, which was made to Bartel’s body and shoulder. It was considered a legitimate attempt to mark the ball. No further action was taken.”
There’s no doubt there were similarities in the two incidents, but drastically divergent assessments were made by the MRP.
You wonder if Wright’s trip to hospital and diagnosis of concussion played some part in the MRP’s assessment Cotchin had made ‘high contact’ at a ‘high impact’, which even seems contentious upon consultation with the replay.
Whereas Bartel – a bigger bodied, seasoned AFL footballer – was able to get up after Hille’s impact, Wright – who is only days out of his teens and only in his second year of AFL footy – felt the hit. He felt the turf too, with his head, which wouldn’t have helped.
Nevertheless, there’s no arguing against the fact it was a split-second decision which Cotchin got wrong.
But that hardly warrants missing three games of AFL footy. In fact, that’s ridiculously harsh in light of the aforementioned points.
In this case no one is a winner. Least of all the Match Review Panel’s reputation as they again fail to find any level of consistency.
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