We can talk about the apparent unfairness, even misguidedness, of the MRP and the Tribunal until we're blue in the face. Bemoan the death of "The Bump", but that would be rehashing arguments that have been put forward for the last 15 years. Rather than that, I've decided to repost (not rehash) an article that I published on April 1 last year in the wake of the notorious Nat Fyfe case. Still as relevant today as it was 13 months ago.
Before reading, why not re-familiarise yourself with the incidents discussed:
| || |
| || |
To paraphrase the new wording of the law regarding head high contact, if a player elects to bump when he has other options he is liable for any damage caused by said bump. When Fyfe bumped Rischitelli he had a few options: tackle, smother or contest the ball. There are a few ‘footy basics’ drilled into players from a young age. Things such as playing the ball rather than the man and tackling is always a better option than bumping. These lessons obviously left Fyfe’s head at that moment and he went with a bump. It is understandable he didn’t take the time to consider all options, AFL is played at an incredibly fast pace, and therein lies the problem.
Like many great ideas, the new high contact rule works well in theory, but in practice it is rather flawed, and even brings up a Catch-22. Since the game is so fast and players are stronger than they’ve ever been any impact injury that occurs is necessarily more severe. On the other hand, with the game being so fast there is less time for decision making. Another of those aforementioned ‘footy basics’ is always use your first option.
More worrying for me, though, is the less talked about Taylor Hunt case. Hunt was also offered two matches for a similar incident during the Brisbane-Geelong game. The difference with this case is that Hunt was not in the contest, but shepherding for a teammate. Yet another of the ‘footy basics’, always protect a teammate with the ball. His options in this case were shepherd or let his teammate be tackled. That shouldn’t even come under the new rule.
The Nat Fyfe case is always going to be more controversial because of his Brownlow favouritism (which opens a whole other can of worms) but the the case of Taylor Hunt is proof beyond doubt: the bump is dead.
In a week where it was revealed that Alex McKinnon, of the Newcastle Knights in the NRL, will never walk again because of an on-field incident, we needn’t be reminded how important it is to protect the head and neck of players. When the rule put in place is in conflict with what players have been taught from when they were old enough to hold a football, though, we are in rough terrain.
If we are to grow the game, and I assume the AFL are still keen on that idea, we should celebrate the aspects that make it unique. We should not be disallowing any ‘footy basics’.