I’m going to come out and say it:

“Because you don’t like Lindsay Thomas” is not the most solid basis on which to make changes to the rules of the game or the terms of reference of the Match Review Panel. Any correlation between making a rule because of something Lindsay did and the betterment of the game is coincidence at best. A “false friend” as etymologists would say.

Lindsay shepherds Ben Reid off a contest in 2013. Clean bump, but the follow through induces a clash of heads. Both players a little the worse for wear, Reid a bit more so.

Mouth breathing pundits like Gerard and Robbo are apoplectic. A man 25 years out of the game and a barely coherent sot. Who pays attention to these people? The slack-jawed “readers” (I say “readers” because I can’t think of a more suitable term right now, though I’m sure none of them would voluntarily describe themselves as readers in any general sense) of the Herald Sun are up in arms. Nathan turns his whinge-o-matic up to eleven. Something Must Be Done.

And it is done. Result: a procession of dubious suspensions and controversies from accidents that happen when two grown men throw themselves at a loose ball.




Clinton Young.

Then there’s the ones not charged, or reduced to a slap on the wrist: Goodes; Buddy (I’m sensing a pattern here); Glass.

And this week, the epitome of all that is pure and fair in football, Daniel Wells.

Wellsy’s bump on Shaun Higgins was a thing of beauty. Just barely second to the ball, he braced, got him flush shoulder to shoulder, and ironed him out. Play on. Ball jarred free, Wells pounced on it and shovelled it forward for a (missed) shot at goal by a teammate. Three months of running slow laps and watching from the stands all bottled up and turned into one hit.

And because he may have just clipped Higgins on the chin in the process of finishing the bump, he’s going to miss a week.

We’ve waited all season to see North’s first choice midfield group — Swallow, Boomer, Dal Santo, Wells, Ziebell, Cunnington — play together. And despite a dip in form from Dal and Wells being underdone, it was on the whole worth the wait. And now, thanks to the MRP’s idiotic focus on results over intent (and, if I’m honest, Wells’ sly punch to Higgins guts earlier and Boomer getting sucked in by a tagger again), it’s been taken away. I’m pissed off.

A day earlier I was pondering a mostly pleasing North win. They put a bulldogs side that has been around the mark recently to the sword, and may have shaken off their “should-win” blues. Swallow, Wells, Brown, Black, Jacobs, Thompson and Grima all had encouraging games given their recent form, injuries, or general stage of development. Brad Scott made some moves that paid off. I got to watch Bontempelli turn it on without actually doing much real damage. That kid can play. The MRP really knows how to ruin a weekend.

I’m not one of the “bring back the biff” crowd. I don’t think Carl Ditterich and Ronnie Andrews made the game better in the old days. I didn’t think Pickett’s hit on Krummel was much chop. I’m bemused that the league uses incidents that players got rubbed out for in their promotional videos. I agree that with the pace of the modern game we need to make sure players take reasonable care for their own and other players’ safety. If something isn’t done about ducking, another Neil Sachse tragedy is just waiting to happen.

But Jeez. Let blokes go for the ball. Maybe we can get some “Because we like Nat Fyfe” rule changes next year.


  1. Rob C, couldn’t agree more, the charge against Wells for the bump is staggering. I think Harvey may have got off slightly lightly and the other Wells hit was poor, but his Higgins bump seemed to be perfectly executed, what I see kids in junior football being encouraged to do fairly and without any rancour or repurcussions.

    Sad when we are over reacting to anything that hits slightly away from the shoulders. The whole ‘head is sacrosant’ thing, which is good and proper to protect thug hits and poor bumps now has no margin for error in a good side on bump


  2. Brilliantly argued piece, Rob. You had me right up to “because we like Nat Fyfe”.
    Penalising blokes that lead with their head when a tackler approaches – to draw the free – is a crucial rule interpretation change that’s desperately needed if we want to stop serious head and neck injuries.
    The law of unintended consequences is encouraging players to take stupid risks.

  3. Too bloody right. ‘Nuff said.

  4. Dave Brown says

    I enjoy the sentiment, Rob, but don’t agree with the analysis of the Wells bump. His shoulder quite clearly hit Higgins’ head in a scenario where he had other options. As such he was correctly sanctioned.

    Therein lies the trouble with the bump – particularly when you have athletes of (sometimes signifcantly) differing height going full pelt into contests the bump is too clumsy an instrument when the margin for error is so small. Add to this the added complication that you can carry out a perfectly timed below the shoulder bump and still be sanctioned should you knock your opponent over and his head hits the ground.

    Perhaps, while a thing of beauty (I can still picture McLeod’s bump on Harvey in the 1997 grand final), much like a well executed drop kick from full back, it is time for the bump to become a thing of the past.

  5. daniel flesch says

    Like your last par., Dave Brown. Looking forward to the resurgence of the “long driving dropkicks ” of a long-ago childhood.

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