Tom Hawkins is very lucky, as are Geelong, whose flag hopes would have all but evaporated had their most important player been suspended for punching Hawthorn’s Ben Stratton on the weekend.
In almost every news report of the incident, Hawkins’ act was termed as a “jumper punch”.
Why is the word “jumper” necessary? Is a jumper punch any different from a regular punch?
Well, no, it’s not. A jumper punch often does not involve significant force but it is exactly the same as a run-of-the-mill punch which doesn’t involve significant force.
Both the term jumper punch, and the act itself, are sneaky. The term instantly frames the strike as being insignificant. The act itself is often used as a means of clocking your opponent in the jaw without the risk of suspension or sometimes even a free kick.
Does the fabric of the jumper provide such a level of cushioning that the impact of a punch is lessened? I’m not sure if any physics boffin has ever tested that theory but the rational answer is no, not to any relevant extent.
So why does the AFL so often turn a blind eye to jabs delivered to the head by a fist wrapped in a guernsey, yet suspend players for similar strikes meted out with a bare fist?
“Protect the head” has been the slogan from the AFL in recent years as they have tightened up the laws of the game, effectively outlawing bumps that were 100 per cent legal for the previous 100 years of competition.
Maybe their more accurate catchcry should be, “Protect the head, unless it’s been struck by an object draped in cloth”.
I should explain I do not want players suspended for minor physical indiscretions like Hawkins’ act, although I will undoubtedly cop such accusations from the usual bunch who read only headlines not articles.
We want the champions of the game playing as often as possible, particularly in finals. What I would like to see is consistency. We all would. It’s the biggest criticism of the AFL Match Review Panel – that their decisions are unpredictable and sometimes irrational.
The official line from the MRP was that the force used was below that required for a reportable offence. It does seem odd though, that had Hawkins executed that punch with a bare hand he would likely be on the sidelines for this week’s do-or-die final against North Melbourne.
Would such a defence stand up in a court of law? If a thug clocked another patron in a bar, could he earn leniency by virtue of having had his fist wrapped in his victim’s t-shirt?
Of course not, because it’s nonsense. A punch is a punch.