Geelong star Patrick Dangerfield has warned of an AFL player backlash because of match review findings that were handed down after Round 1.
Dangerfield said it was his belief before this season started that if a player was found guilty of punching an opponent, it would mean a suspension.
But North Melbourne onballer Ben Cunnington was only fined for a striking incident and West Coast forward Liam Ryan also escaped suspension for a jumper punch.
“I was under the idea that if you did, you were going to be suspended,” Dangerfield told SEN.
“Now, we’ve sort of (got) ourselves into this situation that where does it sit?
“There is a serious grey area and if a player is suspended for it, there will be uproar, as there should be, because you’ll compare it to these past incidences during the same season where there hasn’t been a suspension.”
The AFL has sent a memo to clubs this week, reminding them that players risk giving away free kicks for prohibited contact off the ball.
Match review officer Michael Christian said he graded Cunnington’s gut punch on Fremantle opponent Nathan Wilson as low impact – meaning a fine rather than a suspension – because of the Dockers’ medical report and Wilson being able to stay on the ground.
Dangerfield conceded it is difficult to grade punches, given a hard man such as Brisbane veteran Luke Hodge will react differently to others.
“There’s always going to be frustration with it because what level of contact – it can be a clenched fist but it might be, on a scale of one to 10, it might be a one – but through a camera it just looks like it’s high impact,” he said.
“So it is very difficult to grade and there’s going to be different players who react in different ways.
“If you belt Hodgey like that, chances are he’s not going to move, but there’s other players in the competition that’ll milk it for what it is.”