The AFL is broken.
On the same day a champion of any era, Nick Riewoldt, announced his retirement, another, Patrick Dangerfield, was offered a suspension for not only laying a perfectly good tackle, but one in which he showed the appropriate duty of care to which his opposition was entitled.
Dangerfield has been offered a two-match ban, but can serve one week with a guilty plea.
We need to remove Dangerfield’s status in the game, that of champion, reigning Brownlow medallist, and most sensationally, equal favourite to go back-to-back in that award.
We must remove the fact that his team, Geelong, has the biggest two weeks of their season coming up, home clashes against Sydney and Richmond, both sides vying for a top four and even top two spot that is currently occupied by the Cats.
Geelong fans are outraged that he could even be cited. Sydney fans would be outraged if he was let off, given the Swans play the Cats this week.
Some feel there is a ‘superstar’ clause in MRP findings, that gives a discount to the bigger names, particularly those at the pointy end of Brownlow betting. Better to teach the appropriate lesson to the majority by sacrificing the jobbers, they say.
There are the journos baying for blood, which would better suit their never-ending quest for narrative and content.
And then there’s the interminable ‘optics’. Can we pass a law where we are allowed to shoot anyone who uses the phrase? Execute them right in the street. I’ll sign up.
Let’s strip away the names of the players involved, and thus the emotion.
Player A tackled Player B, and took him to the ground. Player B had disposed of the ball, but Player A is entitled to complete his tackle. The umpire could well have paid a free kick to Player B, but didn’t. In the eyes of all three umpires, this was fair play.
Player A initially pins both of Player B’s arms in the tackle. By the time Player B hits the ground, one arm is already free. It is not Player A’s fault that Player B does not have the wherewithal to use said arm to protect his fall.
One of the job descriptions of an AFL player is to be strong in the tackle. Player B failed in this aspect. Player A used his weight and momentum to better advantage than Player B, a taller and heavier man, in this instance.
Furthermore, Player A actually chooses to pull up the tackle on Player B, once he realises Player B’s head is in a dangerous position. This is clear both in real time and after being slowed down. Aware that he has a duty of care to his fellow professional, Player A fulfils it by not slinging, slamming or driving his opponent into the turf.
Player A takes all due care to ensure that there is no injury to Player B. Nothing more could have been expected under the circumstances.
Everything Player A did was fair and reasonable. Accidents happen in a contact sport. And sometimes those accidents cause injury. They should not then lead to suspensions.
Ask every single player on an AFL list if they would expect to be suspended if they were in the place of Tom Bugg on Callum Mills or Bachar Houli on Jed Lamb. You’d get 100 per cent in the affirmative.
Ask every single player on an AFL list if they would expect to be suspended if they were in the place of Patrick Dangerfield tackling Matthew Kreuzer. You’d get 100 per cent in the negative.
The MRP and Tribunal process is there to punish the illegal acts that can and do cause harm and injury.
They should not punish those responsible for accidental injury, when the player in question has taken all due care to avoid it.