AFL needs to grow a pair when it comes to staging
Essendon look to be a club in crisis (Slattery Images)
Players that blatantly stage for free kicks should be, at the very least, rubbed out for a week. Essendon’s Leroy Jetta this week became the first AFL player to be charged with staging after all-too-easily going to ground in the second quarter of his club’s game with Richmond.
But while Jetta will miss this week’s game with GWS for a separate incident, his punishment for staging was a mere reprimand.
It wasn’t deemed an offence worthy of a stint on the sidelines.
Indeed, players found out are given a written reprimand for the first offence, then fines of $1600 and $2400 for further offences.
It’s crazy. Staging might seem like an innocent enough act, but this is just not good enough from the AFL.
Staging can affect umpire decision-making, it’s an ugly look for the sport, the fans absolutely hate it and, most important of all, it’s just not in the spirit of the game.
In incidents where it’s clear and obvious that a player has played for a free kick, without any substantial contact from an opponent, a reprimand is a weak excuse for a punishment.
Meagre punishments will do nothing to deter players from pushing the boundaries in the future. The threat of missing games would.
Now, it’s true that Jetta might now think twice the next time an opportunity to over-exaggerate presents itself. Given he’s on a warning, he probably won’t go there again.
But discouraging an individual player shouldn’t be the point. The point should be to discourage all players.
It’s not just the punishment that’s frustrating, either.
The fact Jetta is the first AFL player to be charged for staging makes it even worse. The rule has been in place since 2010.
Adrian Anderson summarised the mood of clubs late 2009 when he claimed they wanted the AFL to “stamp it out before it becomes a major problem”.
A video was released explaining the new rule with four examples of what was supposed to be targeted.
However, while we’ve all seen staging similar to what was in that video occur since, it’s taken until now for the match review panel to act and use its new powers.
The rule is a farce.
Throughout the 2010 season especially, there were numerous examples highlighted on footy TV shows that identified staging occurring, but the match review panel failed to address the issue.
Perhaps if it was addressed with a firm hand then, Jetta wouldn’t have dared do what he did Saturday night.
Instead, the problem continues.
And if the kids at home keep watching their heroes get away with it, it may continue for a long while yet.
Michael DiFabrizio is completing his journalism degree. As an AFL writer, he has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009, and appeared in The Age and on ABC television and radio. Follow Michael on twitter @mdifabrizio
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