Joel Selwood’s unwanted contribution to the AFL

Sam Staunton Roar Rookie

By Sam Staunton, Sam Staunton is a Roar Rookie

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116 Have your say

    He’s one of the most fearless and courageous leaders modern football has ever seen, and the media rightfully acknowledges this on a regular basis.

    Joel Selwood is a superstar, there’s no question. But there’s a darker side to the six-time All Australian.

    We can all thank Joel Selwood for introducing, and mastering, a shameful practise widely used throughout todays AFL.

    Umpires can easily tell the difference between a genuine high tackle, and a tackle where a player has ducked his head to draw the high contact. But the line becomes blurred when it comes to Selwood and his copycats.

    Lowering his knees to reduce his body height, Selwood knows when the tackle is coming, and as soon as the tacklers arms wrap around his own arms, he raises his shoulder, subsequently causing the tackling players arm to slide down and wrap around Selwood’s neck rather than his torso.

    Given he hasn’t blatantly ducked his head into the tackler’s body, umpires are forced to rule this a high tackle.

    It is technically not cheating, but it is certainly not in the spirit of the game.

    Players such as Rhys Mathieson, Toby McLean and Luke Shuey have all followed suits, and the technique is now common.

    Mathieson, a young Lion who only debuted in 2016, immediately copped a bad reputation for using the high contact technique almost every time he was tackled. Paul Puopolo was also guilty, before making an effort to reduce his reliance on this element of his game, in order to avoid the bad reputation.

    So why is Selwood held in such regard within the media despite being the pioneer of a widely disliked technique?


    (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    Jon Ralph was quick to pounce on Toby McLean on the weekend via Twitter, claiming he “has to get the duck and raised-arm out of his game,” adding that it is “milking free kicks” and that it labels players “with a perception that is hard to get rid of even when you stop it.”

    Ralph didn’t quite target Selwood in the same way after Easter Monday’s game, merely decalaring the obvious – that it is very hard to tackle him.

    Selwood is in the highest tier of elite midfielders in the competition. Yet other players who are brilliant at evading tackles and disposing of the ball prior to contact, make Selwood’s tactics look like a cop out. He can’t be that good in traffic if he has to draw free kicks to save himself.

    A prime Gary Ablett or Sam Mitchell would have the skill to get off a clean disposal to a teammate, in a high-pressure situation with opposition tacklers a bearing down on them.

    Dustin Martin prefers to use his brute strength to fend off his opponents, a stunning (and legal) move. Whereas Joel Selwood prefers to use his strength to raise his shoulders and force his tacklers arms around his neck. The Dusty method is a brilliant and famous part of our game. The Selwood method needs to go.

    During the recent Easter Monday classic between the Cats and the Hawks, Ryan Burton attempted to lay a tackle on Selwood midway through the opening quarter. Selwood, clearly unaware of his surroundings, quickly realised he was in hot water, and resorted to his usual method. As always, free kick Selwood.

    In his usual, fiery state, James Sicily let Joel know that he was not happy with his behaviour, shoving him to the ground and conceding a fifty-metre penalty. Ironically, Sicily has been known to use this free kick drawing method himself, though far less frequently, preferring to use his precision kicking to escape danger.

    Later, Sicily does what not many men can do, and lays a legal, perfect tackle on Selwood. Clearly upset that he couldn’t milk a free kick for himself out of it, Selwood decides to grab Sicily’s legs and not allow him to pursue the ball.

    Unable to break free, Sicily drops his knee in Selwood’s face and cops a week off for it from Michael Christian, the MRP officer.

    Mark Robinson, chief AFL reporter for the Herald Sun, voiced his outrage, underwhelmed by the ban. He called for it to be longer, and disregarded the fact that Selwood had it coming for not letting go of Sicily as “rubbish.”

    Joel Selwood Geelong Cats AFL 2017 tall

    (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Well, Selwood did have it coming. Sicily didn’t need to drop his knee into Selwood’s head, and the-week ban he received for it is fair. But it certainly should not be any longer than a week. It was graded as intentional, and low impact. Both are correct judgements.

    He did not drive his knee into Selwood’s head. He just dropped it. That’s what happens when someone is holding onto your legs and impeding your balance. Sicily will sit out against Richmond, an important clash for Hawthorn. But he does not deserve to miss any more football than that.

    And the tension all stemmed from the original incident after Ryan Burton’s legal tackle against Selwood was milked into an illegal one.

    Sicily overreacted, but he clearly shares the frustration of thousands of fans.

    Joel Selwood’s method of drawing high contact has had a negative impact on our game. It shows a lack of ability to prevail in high-pressure situations, and it is exploiting a grey area in the rules.

    For the sake of his reputation, Joel Selwood should put an end to this practise.

    Getting hassled by a parent or partner about spending too much time playing video games? Now, you can tell them the story of how some ordinary gamers scored $225k for just seven weeks of work.

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    The Crowd Says (116)

    • April 6th 2018 @ 6:00am
      Griffo said | April 6th 2018 @ 6:00am | ! Report

      I wonder sometimes, is the intent of this raised arm to draw a free kick or to shrug a tackle? If it’s the latter surely that is an innocent enough motive. If the umpires were to not pay free kicks in these situations then we would probably see what his true motivation is by whether it disappears or continues.

      • Roar Guru

        April 6th 2018 @ 9:30am
        Dalgety Carrington said | April 6th 2018 @ 9:30am | ! Report

        Last year the AFL did re-jig the rules a bit, to account for the role the tackled player has in instigating an infringement. Which is the way it used to be once upon a time. So if the shrugging or ducking action significantly increases the likelihood of a high tackle occurring, it’s play on, or even holding the ball should they be nailed.

        I’d go as far to argue that the shrug/duck in a lot of cases constitutes prior opportunity, which if interpreted that way would cut it out pretty quickly I reckon.

        The high tackle law itself is essentially there to prevent injury and if a tackle starts below the shoulders and is shrugged high by the tacklee, it’s hardly a high impact/dangerous tackle. So going with where the tackle starts seems a very sensible and easy to interpret policy.

        • April 6th 2018 @ 10:25am
          reuster75 said | April 6th 2018 @ 10:25am | ! Report

          You’re correct, listening to Mick Malthouse on ABC radio during the game Monday he said that the rule was changed to now be about where the tackle started not where it ends up so the free kick Selwood got shouldn’t have been paid as the tackle started below the shoulders (and I am a Geelong fan). I really think opposition clubs (i’m especially looking at you Collingwood and Hawthorn), the media and opposition fans need to stop going on about this issue and focus on other things. In a game where hundreds of decisions would be made during the game the odd incorrect free kick paid to Selwood for a high tackle is not a big deal. I find the whole “Selwood a cheat” thing amazingly hypocritical as so many AFL fans and commentators love to put the boot into football/soccer over cheating with an air of superiority that suggests there is none in AFL.

          • April 6th 2018 @ 10:38am
            Reservoir Animal said | April 6th 2018 @ 10:38am | ! Report

            You seem to be saying that Selwood is above criticism because soccer players cheat.

          • Roar Guru

            April 6th 2018 @ 11:26am
            Dalgety Carrington said | April 6th 2018 @ 11:26am | ! Report

            Well without going into a code war situation, it’s a false equivalency to compare the level of looking for umpire/referee intervention in the middle of play between Aussie Rules and soccer. Certainly a lot of the fuss on this isn’t so much about hypocrisy, as showing it’s a lot less accepted in Aussie Rules circles. Each to their own.

            Selwood does have a reasonably sized trend of this, he’s not alone by any stretch (and it’s also more prevalent in some teams than others), but you’re right it’s now for the AFL/umpires to police it, not Selwood.

            • April 6th 2018 @ 1:29pm
              Brian said | April 6th 2018 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

              Honestly that seems to be an AFL myth I see players diving to win free kicks and 50m penalties every week

              • Roar Guru

                April 6th 2018 @ 1:52pm
                Dalgety Carrington said | April 6th 2018 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

                It’s not saying it doesn’t happen (although there is a difference playing for a free that gives up on a ball in play, over one that doesn’t), it’s always going to happen in high stakes sport. It’s about the extent that it happens and how accepted/condoned it is.

    • April 6th 2018 @ 6:35am
      Kangajets said | April 6th 2018 @ 6:35am | ! Report

      His reputation forever now will be as a ducker, when his legacy could have been much greater then that .

      • April 6th 2018 @ 8:00am
        Don Freo said | April 6th 2018 @ 8:00am | ! Report

        If that’s how you think of him, I’d suggest you watch more replays of Geelong.

        This bloke is mentioned in the same breathe as Dangerfield and Ablett for good reason…and it is not ducking.

        He is only thought about as a ducker by rare and wayward articles like this…and by subsequent bandwagonners.

        • April 6th 2018 @ 9:06am
          Matt Young said | April 6th 2018 @ 9:06am | ! Report

          The person who wrote that article clearly needs to go and watch netball. One of the dumbest articles I’ve had the displeasure of reading. Selwood is possible the best all round footballer in the last 20 tears (at least). The rules permit what he does so your argument is seriously flawed. Sicily is a THUG – just like Mitchell was The Sniper.

          • April 6th 2018 @ 9:16am
            andyl12 said | April 6th 2018 @ 9:16am | ! Report

            Spoken like a true Geelong-lover or Hawthorn-hater. Or maybe both.

            Don’t worry Matt, the media are on your side, they’ll tow your line.

          • Roar Rookie

            April 6th 2018 @ 6:04pm
            Sam Staunton said | April 6th 2018 @ 6:04pm | ! Report

            I acknowledged that Selwood is a superstar, a brilliant leader, and in the highest tier of midfielders in the competition. I also acknowledged that what Selwood does is not cheating, and thus permitted under the rules of the game. And finally, I acknowledged that Sicily deserved punishment for what he did.
            However, to argue that just because what Selwood does is technically legal that it is completely innocent is incorrect. Like I’ve said, it shows a lack of skill to be able to escape a high pressure situation.

        • April 6th 2018 @ 10:02am
          AD said | April 6th 2018 @ 10:02am | ! Report

          He’s only viewed as anything OTHER than a ducker by Geelong supporters.

          • April 6th 2018 @ 3:35pm
            DB said | April 6th 2018 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

            And Leigh Mathews and Scott Pendlebury

          • April 6th 2018 @ 4:28pm
            Perry Bridge said | April 6th 2018 @ 4:28pm | ! Report

            TO be partially fair –

            Selwood is a shrugger – arms to lift the tacklers hands/arms up over his shoulder. In many respects that’s okay – strength to ‘shrug the tackle’ – heck, Leigh Mathews could do that.

            However – now and then Selwood has an attack of the jelly legs – and that to me is where he uses up his 9 lives and has to be done for holding the ball as to me dropping to the ground is giving up any prior opportunity benefit of the doubt.

            Puopulo is more prone to leaning into the tackler and creating the head high contact and he also is a massive dropper to the ground. Sicily we saw against North – the night Thomas got singled out – is no slouch and therefore there’s a tremendous irony in his ire in this case.

      • April 6th 2018 @ 2:02pm
        Michael said | April 6th 2018 @ 2:02pm | ! Report

        Your opinion really counts for a lot – I’m sure Selwood is going to stop going for the ball now because of what you’ve said

    • April 6th 2018 @ 6:35am
      Bogdan Kanacheeny said | April 6th 2018 @ 6:35am | ! Report

      Does this mean the tackler is not smart enough to develop a counter?

      • April 6th 2018 @ 7:32am
        Kangajets said | April 6th 2018 @ 7:32am | ! Report

        The tackler has made a fair tackle already

      • April 6th 2018 @ 7:53am
        Gecko said | April 6th 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

        I saw the latest Selwood incident of ducking and agree it’s not good for the game.

        But isn’t it up to the AFL – not Selwood – to get this out of the game? In recent years the umpires have gotten strict on players ducking into tackles. They now just need to get strict on players like Selwood dropping their knees to draw high tackles.

        • Roar Rookie

          April 6th 2018 @ 6:05pm
          Sam Staunton said | April 6th 2018 @ 6:05pm | ! Report

          Good point, it also a responsibility of the AFL to do their bit to remove this from our game.

    • April 6th 2018 @ 7:26am
      nungamuncha said | April 6th 2018 @ 7:26am | ! Report

      Good luck to Selwood and all the others who use this “shameful” tactic. There has never been a “spirit of the game”. its a myth that we choose to indulge in. its like our cricketers playing “hard but fair”. once they were caught cheating the lynch-mob outrage of the Australian public forced the Australian cricket authorities into a gross overreaction. Hence our cricketers get punished far beyond that which any other country would have done. So now Selwood is guilty of playing contrary to the spirit of the game. Why is what he does deemed so far above (in terms of sheer awfulness) all the other dubious practices that take place during the game. Players still play for the boundary line if they think they can get away with it, players will hang on to another player’s jumper if they can get away with that etc. Why pluck out this player and this behavior from all the other equally dubious happenings that occur on a football field. Football fields are meant to be unpleasant work places i.e players “playing on the edge” etc. All teams make it as unpleasant as possible for the opposition, that is the way the game has always been played.

    • April 6th 2018 @ 8:21am
      Rissole said | April 6th 2018 @ 8:21am | ! Report

      Everyone has an opinion on it and no one will ever change their mind on how they perceive it. Personally, I hate it and find it difficult to watch Geelong games which is a shame because they play an enjoyable brand of footy.
      I love one on one contested situations, particularly in close games in the last quarter. When Selwood is involved you know he’s not going to try a brilliant play involving evasive, hand or foot skills but rather attempt to draw the free and I cringe every time.
      Some spectators defend him saying it’s clever and within the rules of the game. Given that it’s a very beneficial tactic and simple to master, why do 95% of other players not adopt it. They obviously think quite low of it which is clear when Selwood is remonstrated with on a weekly basis.
      Just imagine how the game would look of every player adopted this tactic.

      • Roar Guru

        April 6th 2018 @ 2:39pm
        JamesH said | April 6th 2018 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

        I think the reason other players don’t do it is because it takes incredible strength. Not only do you have to be able to raise your upper arm quickly when your opponent is pulling down on it, but you have to have the core strength to stay upright and balanced at the same time.

        The truth is that it’s the AFL’s job to eradicate this tactic, not Selwood’s. He doesn’t owe anything to the fans of other teams.

        Luke Hodge was criticised for conceding repeated deliberate behinds in the ’08 grand final but he was allowed to do it and it helped him win a Norm Smith. The AFL changed the rules and players adapted. Lots of people didn’t like Paul Roos’ gameplan at Sydney because it wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing as what came before it, but it was effective and won his team a flag (very nearly two). The AFL has since introduced rule tweaks to try to reduce congestion.

        If Selwood is playing within the rules and winning free kicks then he has every right to continue doing it. And I’m an Essendon fan.

        BTW, I think you’ll find Selwood will keep doing it even if he stops getting free kicks. It’s a very effective method of forcing a tackler to lose their grip on you, whether or not they make high contact.

    • April 6th 2018 @ 8:22am
      andyl12 said | April 6th 2018 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      The reason the “media” all get behind Selwood is because they know if they don’t (like I don’t), they’ll get ridiculed by his disciples or ever censored. Nobody has ever been brave enough to admit that he wouldn’t be a superstar except for the umpires basically saying “you’re not allowed to touch him, but he can touch you all he wants.” Similar to what they used to say to Goodes.

      Oh yeah and Sicily didn’t even deserve a reprimand for that. Especially since Selwood didn’t get done for hand tripping.

      OK, lay into me now. I’ve spoken blasphemously.

      • April 6th 2018 @ 8:53am
        Don Freo said | April 6th 2018 @ 8:53am | ! Report

        This comment has been removed for breaching The Roar’s comments policy.

      • April 6th 2018 @ 11:42am
        bilo said | April 6th 2018 @ 11:42am | ! Report

        “Similar to what they used to say to Goodes” hat is total, complete and utter bs

        • April 6th 2018 @ 12:57pm
          andyl12 said | April 6th 2018 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

          Bilo, please explain?

          • Roar Guru

            April 6th 2018 @ 1:08pm
            Paul Dawson said | April 6th 2018 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

            From 2008:

            Asked a seemingly innocuous question about who would play on the Swans danger man, Matthews made it clear what he thought of Goodes beating a striking charge at Wednesday’s AFL Tribunal.

            The not guilty verdict that allowed Goodes to line up for a club record-equalling 194th consecutive match clearly rubbed Leigh Matthews the wrong way.

            “Many players are envious of Adam Goodes for many reasons. We hope that his protected species status ends when he comes over the white line,” Matthews said in Brisbane yesterday.

            “I don’t know about the umpires (if he’s a protected species), but (at) the tribunal he certainly is.

            “And he plays for the Swans, so he’s got the double whammy. And he’s got the dual Brownlow medallist ‘get out of jail free’ card, so he’s got them all.

      • April 6th 2018 @ 11:44am
        Irie4 said | April 6th 2018 @ 11:44am | ! Report

        Exactly – where was the free against Selwood for holding Sicily? Or is there no such thing as a free against Selwood…

        • April 6th 2018 @ 5:47pm
          DB said | April 6th 2018 @ 5:47pm | ! Report

          There were over 20 frees missed that day. What’s that got to do with anything

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