Injustice riles the footy fan

Is there anything that riles the footy fan more than perceived injustice? Just sit in the stands and see the irate supporters vent their spleen at the perception their team “not being given a fair go”.

I must admit that I find a similar sense of inequity when it comes to the recent match review panel and tribunal findings. It is quite obvious to all that a change in direction has been installed in the processes under which players are adjudicated. The main criteria when charging and penalising a player seems to be the extent of the victim’s injury. This method of putting effect before cause seems to be incredibly flawed. Look at the recent Selwood case. The fact that Guerra received a perforated eardrum seemed to justify the MRP giving Selwood a charge of intentionally causing injury. This was despite the lack of evidence to prove that the nature of the blow was intentional, reckless, accidental or retaliatory. Without any conclusive evidence they (the MRP) chose to rely on grainy footage which was by their own admittance inadequate and the medical report on Guerra. It is therefore obvious that Selwood was charged on the severity of the injury caused rather than anything concrete. How the MRP could deem this an intentional strike on an unsuspecting opponent is extraordinary to say the least? It is akin to a prosecutor being shown a particular grisly body deciding that the manner of death requires a murder charge over manslaughter without any substantiation or proof!

Along a similar vein let’s have a look at the spate of reports laid last week over the use of the slinging tackle. This action is frowned upon as it can lead to the dangerous “spear” tackle where a player is driven headfirst into the ground. This is rightly so as to avoid the likelihood of serious neck and head injuries which we do want on any sporting field. But once again the penalties were based on the seriousness of the injury caused instead of the intent. To most people’s eye the Joel Corey tackle seemed the most spearlike as he threw his opponent into the ground more head down feet up than the others, he managed to escape with a reprimand as no harm was done. Koschitzke and Mumford both received far more severe penalties as their respective opponents were dazed by the incidents. This leads to some interesting observations on the implementation of the rules. If Shane Mumford tackles a player and throws him to the ground there is a far greater likelihood that he will have a higher impact than say a Stephen Milne implementing the same tackle? So we have a situation where the build of a player has an effect on the way he is allowed to tackleunder the same rules. Also look at twin players A and B who both lay identical tackles on opponents on the same day in the same guy. Player A tackles a rugged toughnut who is renowned for his ability to shrug off an injury, who jumps to his feet, cusses Player A and runs off. Player B is unfortunate to tackle a player who has the football equivalent of a glass jaw or is carrying a predetermined injury. His player gets stunned and he is reported and sidelined for executing the same tackle as player A. In the same vein player A and B once again lay identical tackles in a match, but this time on the same opponent with the same force. Player A lays his tackle first on the plush grassy area on the wing with no ill effect on the tackled player, but Player B is unfortunate enough to lay his on the hard centre bounce and the contact with the less forgiving surface injures him and results in a report, bizarre! Not to mention the difference in surfaces on all the grounds across the land which can also be a factor? Etihad!

So our modern day player in the split second before he lays a tackle has to quickly sum up several points. His relative physical presence measured against his opponent’s, their general wellbeing and medical history and the condition of the terrain on which he intends to implement his tackle. Don’t worry about the type of tackle as it will have to vary accordingly as long as you don’t inadvertently hurt anyone. A sling tackle is only penalised if you cause injury! Once having done this he can go ahead and tackle in the appropriate manner. Hard to see where the confusion comes in!

And woe betides the player who is standing beside his opponent when a rock falls from the sky and knocks him out. His presence there can only be construed as intentional.

It rankles does it not, the unreasonableness of it all.




  1. Pamela Sherpa says

    Well put Tony. I couldn’t agree with you more, re the flaws created by the AFL’s cart before the horse approach. I fear that we will end up having the reports system being based purely on professional medical advice., rather than applying common sense and logic to the laws of the game.

  2. Andrew Fithall says

    Hear hear!

  3. Have to disagree. Injury to the player must come into calculations, despite the difficulties it can produce. The best example that comes to mind is the Jimmy O’Dea/ John Greening incident. If such an incident occurs and the victim cops a fat lip but is otherwise OK, the player doing the belting might get 3 or 4 weeks. But what if the victim suffers brain damage like Greening and nearly dies? Still 3 or 4 weeks? I think not.

    Luck comes into it as it did for Joel Corey, but luck comes into everything; including our everyday lives. Joel Corey was lucky he didn’t injure the St Kilda player otherwise he should have got 2 or 3 weeks. No problem with that in my view. Joel Selwood was unlucky to get 4 weeks but he caused injury, therefore suspension is required (and I barrack for the Cats).

    Gerard Healy made a good comment on the radio the other night also defending this argument – A bloke goes through a red light and causes an injury but nothing serious – he gets a fine. A bloke goes through a red light and kills someone, he goes to prison. Sounds logical to me.

  4. John Butler says

    Dips, you have a point.

    But I think the point being made is that the MRP is supposed to take value judgements out of decisions in the cause of consistency. Wouldn’t luck fall into this category?

    Besides, that Selwood had it coming to him. Running around head-butting blokes chests like that. :)

  5. Tony Bull says

    I can understand your point dips, but with the red light scenario can the police adjudicate did the driver intentionally drive through the red light. It is the fact that Selwood was charged with pre-meditation with no evidence to suppor it. I have no issue with the suspension only the unfair slur.
    To my mind Corey should have got the same as others as he was lucky he did not inflict a similar injury.
    ( I am a cats man too). Protect the player and discourage the spear tackle by all means but don’t rely on luck. It is a matter of inches between penalty (MRP) and plaudits (coaching staff and fans) for the same act. Book em all or release them all, you can’t be selective for reasons mentioned in article.

  6. Tony – taking injury into account actually simplifies things. It actually takes any value judgment by the Tribunal out of the equation. Injury = suspension. No value judgement there. No need to agonise over intent, or premeditation, or whether its Grand Final eve. Player is gorn.

    The luck I was talking about was the player’s luck in either causing or not causing injury.

    Under your system how many weeks would Jimmy O’Dea get? And how many would Campbell Brown get who elbowed a bloke behind play but was fortunate not to cause serious injury. Would they both get the same?

  7. Mark Doyle says

    Any so called perceived injustice by the footy fan is generally nothing more than a lack of objectivity and fanatical one-eyed support for their team. As I have said previously there is no point in whinging about umpire decisions, the match review panel and the tribunal. The present system relies on medical reports to determine the level of impact for rough conduct, head high bumps and fist/forearm strikes. The AFL is also trying to outlaw the sling tackle. With respect to the recent Selwood case, I think I heard Neil Balme say that the intentiional rating was based on what Selwood himself said to the investigating officer; he ‘shot himself in the foot’. He then tried to have it downgraded to reckless in the appeal.
    If people do not like the use of medical reports by the match review panel, they should start a political movement as in the sentiment of the Arlo Guthrie song ‘Alice’s Restaurant’; the equivalent group W bench could be the local hotel on a Monday night.

  8. Tony Bull says

    Dips, you make some very good points in particular the Brown vs O Dea case. What did O Dea get? I have heard 2 completely different scenarios (from pies and cats fans). perhaps in striking/assault cases the injury received can be more of a factor. But I do believe that in rough play reports where the injury is less drastic it is the act that matters. You allow it or stop it altogether ( i prefer the latter for what its worth). In the case of the slinging tackle it is diffficult for players as what has been drilled into them is now unacceptable,( similiar to advantage rule (insert can of worms here))To get off because of luck makes it a liitle bit like Match Review Lotto for my liking.

  9. Tony Bull says

    sorry above comment should be pies and saints fans

  10. Dave Nadel says

    The O’Dea case is not a good example. O’Dea hit Greening when the ball was down the other end of the ground (and so was the sole umpire) He got 12 weeks. I assume that this reflected the “behind the play” element. If the penalty was based on the damage done than it should have been much longer. Greening was in a coma for 24 hours, hospitalised for weeks, did not play at all for two years and when he finally played a few games for Collingwood and several seasons in the VFA was not the same brilliant player.

    I am not sure that it is possible to run a fair system based on outcomes. It is much easier to base it on context. To me O’Dea’s attack on Greening was assault and probably should have gone to the courts, because it did not happen as part of the contest for the football. Some of the shepharding that happens on the field might have also ended with players concussed and in hospital but it is part of the game and the player has some chance to protect himself.

    To forestall the usual Collingwood bashing – I am aware that Duncan Wright knocked John Somerville out behind the play in 1965. I would not have blamed Somerville or Esssendon if they had sued Wright for assault. I note that Collingwood delisted Wright at the end of the season. The match in which he hit Somerville was his last VFL game. I note that O’Dea went on to play for another eight years for St Kilda. The Saints gave him life membership.

  11. Rick Kane says

    Inconsistencies will prevail in a process that applies “inexact science” to understand the motive, action and consequence. That science might be of medicine, psychology, physics, sociology or law but it is inexact. And to the extent that it reasonably functions to address the spirit of fairness in footy then I reckon we should be careful not to be too Solomon lite in our determination of its effectiveness.

    That means, examples cited should be strong enough to withstand scrutiny. The Selwood example fails. Many a case prior to Selwood (and certainly following the Selwood case) has been based on circumstantial evidence. Therefore the Tribunal (or MRP) has not set a precedent and is being reasonably consistent. One factor not cited on this page with the Selwood example is that it happened off the ball. That factor is important to determine the value of the incident. For example, had an umpire witnessed the incident off the ball it would, based on the outcome of the MRP, have resulted in a free kick down the ground where the ball was in play.

    As for the ‘slinging’ tackles, well we are, as a community and far beyond merely how sport is viewed, on a journey of discovery in relation to harm minimisation. In its capacity the MRP is doing a credible job trying to untangle a web of expectations and historical references to get to the heart of the matter, which is whether that form of tackle is necessary to the spirit and intent of the game.

  12. Geelong V Carlton: Ex-Cat Jeremy Laidler lays the perfect “sling tackle” on new Cat Allen Christensen. Christensen “appeared” to be OK. Result: no report. On the Tuesday (ie.after MRP has deliberated), Christensen is found to be suffering the effects of concussion (delayed) and misses the following week. He would no doubt have been suspended if the concussion were evident prior to MRP deliberations. It’s all too ridiculous.

    Should Tom Hawkins have bene reported for lifting his knee and knocking out Toovey, or should Toovey have been reported for a reckless act leading to his own injury.

    As an aside, on SEN the other day a caller rang in and said the AFL Women’s League was growing in popularity. When asked whether it was similar to the AFL in terms of how its played. The caller answered, “It’s like the AFL, but they are allowed to bump and tackle.”

  13. Pamela Sherpa says

    The bottom line is -the AFL needs to cover itself legally, which is why I feel we will see less emphasis on judgement of the offences committed and more weight placed on medical reports in the future..

  14. Clearisghted says

    Guerra, Lewis and Osborne were sniping Selwood off the ball all game. Apparently no footage of that, grainy or otherwise.
    A punctured eardrum can occur as a result of an infection.
    Did the medical report supplied by the Hawthorn doctor, provide conclusive evidence that the injury to Guerra occurred as a result of Selwood’s contact with him in the final minutes of the game? Or was the evidence provided by the Hawthorn medico accepted as conclusive, even if it was not?

  15. Rick Kane says

    Hi Clearsighted (through one-eye at least),

    I presume your point is related to my point. I was not suggesting one way or the other what happened, merely reminding the discussion of the value of circumstantial evidence (

    Your examples and rhetorical questions would go into the pot of possible actions and inferences, however they do not explain or conclude the case. You would hope that both parties (Cats and Hawks) mounted substantive cases for their cause. Having said that, as has been noted in this discussion, Selwood’s challenge to reduce his penalty did not support the initial argument the Cats made. So, on the evidence available, as supplied by both parties, the MRP made their determination. Suck it up.

    And Cats supporters (at the risk of raising your ire again), your boys are not the clean cut kids and angels you seem to believe they are. They ‘snipe’ and cross the line of fairness as much as any other club. Yer not hard done by, at least from my view in the outer.


  16. Clearisghted says

    Nice try with the reasoned tone there, Rick.
    “Suck it up’ is a telling response to my ‘rhetorical’ questions.

  17. The footage on Selwood / Guerra showed that one player struck one and the victim retaliated. Should be two reports. Only one (Corrupt or in competence?)

    The Corey tackle was the worse of the three. No case to answer. (Corrupt, incompetence) or payback for the week before?)

    Judd in clear vision struck a player with an elbow necesitatins 5 stitches. No case to answer and a Brownlow. (Corrupt or incompetent). It is never going to go away; unless they melt the celluloid.

    When did the AFL’s interpretetation of assult, or battery, usurp common law. (Corrupt, incompetent or just Victoria). It didn’t ever and it doesn’t now)

    Had a bit of truth serum with a very experienced brief the other day. It is only a matter of time before the AFL really pisses a determined, well resourced, person or party off and it will be very good theatre.

  18. Rick Kane says

    Lewis out for a week – what bullcrap, what utter toss, what the hell is this game coming to? I know, I know, I know … pot kettle black. But the MRP got it wrong this time. Why? Because Lewis is one of ours :)

  19. Tony Bull says

    Sorry to hear that Rick, Lewis is one of my favouriet Hawks (there aren’t many(Sic)). I sometimes wonder if that whole “we play unsociable football” moniker they tag themselves with comes back to haunt them.

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