Umpire contact remains a touchy point in the AFL, but Sydney vice-captain Dane Rampe believes banter between players and whistleblowers can be a good thing.
Reigning Brownlow medallist Dustin Martin headlines a long list of players to be fined for making contact with umpires this year, while Geelong power forward Tom Hawkins is in a more selective group to have copped suspensions for the misdeed.
Rampe hasn’t fallen foul of the match review officer at all this season, but his cheeky chirp attracted the attention of plenty of pundits in round 11.
The Swans defender colourfully complained about a decision that went against him, referencing Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson’s catch-up with AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan that preceded the game.
“That is a ridiculous call. Clarko would be happy with that. Did you have a coffee with him too?” Rampe quipped to the umpire.
Clarkson, who highlighted Sydney’s blocking tactics during an informal meeting with McLachlan, was among many around the country who could see the funnier side of the wisecrack.
“It’s in no way disrespecting the umpires,” Rampe told reporters on Tuesday.
“Especially when you get a free kick in front of goal against you, it’s your way of lightening the mood or trying to tell yourself it’s not too serious down there.
“But as long as it doesn’t go too far.
“We all know the line, nothing personal and whatnot. I think it’s all a good bit of fun.”
Hawks defender Ben Stratton bemoaned a “Rancey dive” last Saturday night, sledging the umpire, Greater Western Sydney forward Harry Himmelberg and Richmond star Alex Rance all in one line.
“Personally I’d stay away from it (mentioning other players). Because you can get caught up in the moment and tread a pretty fine line,” Rampe said.
“Just be careful … it depends on the circumstance.”
Rampe is “licking his lips” at the prospect of another duel with Geelong superstar Patrick Dangerfield on Thursday night at the SCG, joking that behemoth Hawkins would be entirely Heath Grundy’s responsibility.