Opinion: MRO let the players go

Ten years ago, what would have been praised as a spectacular run-down tackle, this week has been rewarded with a two-match suspension. Although having been challenged and cleared, it is an indictment on our game to have even considered this a reportable offence.  

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Nick Holman of the Gold Coast Suns would have been quite perplexed to find himself in deep water after his game against Geelong in which he delivered an almost perfectly executed run-down tackle. Although leaving Cats midfielder Mitch Duncan concussed and unable to play out the game, Holman’s coach Stewart Dew shared his view in a post-game press conference that it was a fair, legal tackle, going as far as to say: “If you look up in the dictionary a chase-down tackle, he executed that pretty well.”  

While Holman has been cleared to play next week, and rightly so, it was the adjudication of Carlton backman Lachie Plowman that was perceived as more controversial. Late in a nail-biting finish against Hawthorn, putting his body on the line, Plowman attempted to deliver a desperate spoil to defuse a Hawthorn attack. While he didn’t make contact with the ball, and left Hawthorn star Jaeger O’Meara dazed and set to miss a week of football with concussion, commentators and fans alike simply applauded the “hard-at-it” contest. 

Without much conjecture at the time as to whether Plowman might face the tribunal, the next day he was served a two-match ban which Carlton was quick to appeal, however unsuccessfully. The AFL tribunal condemned Plowman under the fallacy that he “executed a bump” rather than attempting to spoil the ball, with Carlton arguing in a statement that Plowman’s “sole intent was to contest the ball”.  

When AFL players step onto the field, they understand the risks that come with competing in our great sport. In the “reportable offence” section of the AFL rule book, it states “contact incidental to a marking contest” is not a reportable offence. This is not to say that we should turn a blind eye to rough, careless, head-high contact as concussions are a serious threat to our players’ longevity. Ultimately however, the ramifications of these suspensions could eventually become costly and put the game in danger as players become confused about what they can and can’t do.

The AFL Match Review Officer and panel should be more considerate of the act leading to the concussion rather than dishing out heavy penalties as a result of one player’s misfortune.  

 

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