I’ve heard much media beat up this week about Patrick Dangerfield’s suspension. Several players being interviewed, especially on South Australian radio, have been asked, “As a player, do you want to see guys rubbed out in this way?”
Invariably, the answer is, “It’s a tough one.”
But see, the thing is, to me it’s not a tough one. Whether it’s one or two actions, if you choose to chicken wing a player and then sling them, you’re fully aware of the damage you might cause. Arguably, you’re intending to cause some damage. At the very least, you know you’re flirting with danger (pun intended).
I mean really, do any of us actually believe that AFL players, male or female, tackle the opposition with love in their heart? Of course not. When you tackle, the only thing going through your mind is – I want this person to remember being tackled by me.
AFL, rightly or wrongly, has been severely sanitised in the past ten years. Whatever you feel about that, any player who doesn’t realise that they’re risking something by laying a tackle such as Patrick did, is honestly a little naïve. Things happen in the heat of battle, this we know. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be held accountable for your actions.
Much of the discussion has been around whether or not this particular tackle deserved a week off. 20 years ago you’d have been laughed at for suggesting it did. But it’s a brave new AFL world. The salient point here is, whether the act deserved a week or not, this player was intentionally flirting with the line of what is and isn’t fair.
Yes, the line has been moved significantly in the past two decades, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Brownlow is not just a medal for the best player. It’s a medal for the best and fairest player.
Fairest. Have we completely forgotten what that means? It means that when this medal was conceived, being a fair player was valued as much as being a good one. My argument is, if you’re willing to play on the edge of fairness, and lay tackles like this, you probably don’t deserve that medal anyway.
‘I wasn’t even aware of it until I came off’ isn’t a valid defence. I find it simply impossible to believe that Patrick had no idea that the ball was long gone and that pinning a guy’s arms and throwing him to the turf might hurt him.
There’s really no argument for the fact that Dangerfield is the best player in the AFL right now. But I don’t subscribe to the theory that that automatically qualifies him for the Brownlow. Because if he’s willing to lay tackles like this, is he really the fairest player in the competition? If you want Charlie to be handed simply to the best player every year, change the wording.