Was Sam Walsh taken high at the very last gasp?
In light of recent match review officer decisions, the call to send St Kilda’s Nathan Brown directly to the tribunal for his late hit on Essendon’s Adam Saad has been viewed by some as further proof that the bump is dead.
Pundits were right to decry the decision to charge Saad’s teammate Aaron Francis for what appeared to be a perfectly legal hip and shoulder on Hawthorn’s Jaeger O’Meara. But it is important to view each in isolation, as these are very different incidents.
Whether Brown’s bump would have been legal in a typical shephering scenario is not being debated here. A case can be made that the impact to Saad’s head was caused by shoulder-to-shoulder contact, which is considered acceptable based on the precedent of Ryan Burton’s hit on Shaun Higgins earlier this year.
The main question that will be asked at the tribunal on Tuesday night is whether the action was appropriate under the circumstances.
An oft-forgotten reportable offence in today’s game is charging. As per Law 15.4.4, a charge is defined as an act of a player colliding with an opponent where the amount of force is unreasonable or unnecessary in the circumstances, irrespective of where the ball is.
Specific examples include after a player has disposed of the ball, or where a player is not in the immediate contest and would not reasonably expect such contact.
Under the AFL tribunal guidelines, charging is considered to be rough conduct when delivered as bump, with the specific report of charging limited to marking contests.
That Brown bumped Saad after disposal is beyond doubt, and given that Saad had ceased to be an active participant in the play, contact in such a manner could not reasonably have been anticipated. To say otherwise is to suggest that players should be permanently braced for the entire match.
In this case, the duty of care lies squarely with Brown, whose intent was to take his opponent out. At best, he can hope for the conduct to be downgraded to careless, resulting in a two match ban, but the lateness of the contact is likely to go against him.
There is a time and a place to lay a clean bump. This wasn’t it.