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The AFL must do more to protect Jack Ginnivan

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Roar Guru
26th May, 2023
27
10374 Reads

I’m sick of watching the treatment of Jack Ginnivan.

We’re now two years into this malfeasance.

I’ll pause briefly to let the flogs counter with such witty repartee as, “He deserves it”, and, “He’s a git”, and all that juvenile condemnation that has no relevance to the reality of the situation.

How a kid in only his second season of senior football (last year) earned a target from the AFL, and constant persecution from commentators such as Anthony Hudson and Brian Taylor, while much better credentialled players had been dipping for frees for years, is beyond me.

Those in the AFL media who scapegoated him should be ashamed. They won’t be, because many of them thrive on sensationalism and hyperbole. At least Kane Cornes, as criticised as he is, recanted on Ginnivan and then defended him, while Gerard Whateley was the only one to show genuine contrition.

Mason Redman nearly ripping Ginnivan’s head off in the Collingwood-Essendon Round 19 clash last year, and then slinging him around on the ground, should’ve been the AFL’s line in the sand.

It wasn’t.

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AFL legend Leigh Matthews talked about how sick it made him to witness the player being unprotected. The Twitterites condemned Matthews because, you know, he once hit Neville Bruns, like one thing has anything to do with the other. And the AFL? Well, they defended the initial contact, and said the sling should’ve been the free.

I’m sick of this narrative the AFL have perpetuated, and which people are buying into. I am not disputing that Ginnivan – like other players – would occasionally duck. But this belief that when he’s in motion, picking up the ball, and trying to accelerate clear, that he’s leaned into a tackle to invite head-high contact is the biggest fallacy going around.

When you’re moving forward, bent low, picking up the ball and trying to burst clear, you are leaning forward. That’s physics.

But the AFL has sold that it’s a duck.

Similarly with this shrug of the arm to drive a tackle high – so what’s the alternative? You wear the tackle? Or – like every player would be expected to do – you try shrug it and break the opponent’s grip before it lands? To not do so would be derelict. Yet the AFL has sold you this lemon and you’re buying into it and reselling it yourselves. I have some swampland for sale, too, if you’re interested.

In Collingwood’s clash against Carlton, Ginnivan had his head ripped off from behind and still didn’t get a free. How could he possibly duck into this, given he didn’t know it was coming? In the commentary Tim Watson and Cameron Ling cited it unequivocally as a free kick. Brian Taylor was silent.

Jack Ginnivan and Jamie Elliott of the Magpies celebrate.

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

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We see how seriously the AFL is taking concussion. There are concussion tests whenever a player is hit in the head. If a player fails a concussion test, then they effectively miss the following game (and can only return 12 days after the impact).

There’s also this big new minefield that the AFL are trying to navigate as former players explore whether the AFL is culpable for long-term effects they’ve suffered from concussions during their careers in headier times.

We don’t connect Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) with AFL – players go out there and face the risk of injury. But what the AFL is doing with Jack Ginnivan is sanctioning illegal opposition contact, and enabling opponents not to tackle Ginnivan, but attack him – and his head – with impunity. This has now become an unsafe workplace. The AFL are not protecting Ginnivan. This is an OHS issue.

The AFL had better pray that he never suffers concussion(s) and, if he does, never has lingering repercussions, because I’m sure any court will find them culpable. You don’t let a kid get whacked for two years and think you can just walk away from it. You are just complicit as those doing the illegal tackling.

And, with all this, we’re not even considering the mental health issue. Ginnivan spoke about his mental health battles last year. You can see that the kid has lost some of his spark. It wouldn’t be easy walking out onto the field knowing the opposition have the license to belt you.

While I’ve admired Collingwood president Jeff Browne for not being dial-a-headline, this is where I wouldn’t have minded some abrasive bombastic personality like Eddie McGuire to challenge what’s going on and to shout at the AFL and the umpiring fraternity.

Perhaps that will only happen some time in the future – after Ginnivan has been battered out of the game, and is retired and navigating chronic traumatic encephalopathy from all the blows to the head.

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Enjoy the lawsuit then, AFL, because when the existing mandate is to protect the head, when the justifiable paranoia exists about protecting players not only from concussions in the here and now but also long term, when it comes to Ginnivan and how he’s being handled, you have abysmally failed your duty of care, and no finagling of rule interpretations will ever change that.

We see how outspoken more and more media personalities are becoming – people who are identifying that this is wrong.

For those like Hudson and Taylor who’ve led their crusades against Ginnivan, I hope you’re pleased.

Today it’s Ginnivan.

Who’s next?

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Because don’t think, don’t believe for a moment, there won’t be another player who is victimised unless this is addressed now.

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