Match Review Panel: more Paul Kelly, less Aussie Crawl

Searching Trove this week, I came across a piece by Steve McKee in Adelaide’s The News from 1935. In it he argues that umpires are as good as they have ever been but fans are angry because they are ignorant of the rules and their proper interpretations. How the times have changed. He argues that a simplification of the rules and their interpretations would help to quiet the raging beasts on the terraces.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 6.54.23 AM

It’s fair to say there has been a bit of anger about the MRP in more recent times. Carlton fans are still angry that Bryce Gibbs got two weeks for pinning an opponent’s arms and ramming his head into the ground. Everyone else except Swans and Power fans are angry that Buddy and Tippett only got one week each for their head-high contact incidents. Brisbane fans are angry that Martin got two weeks, arguing the charge should not have been intentional because he was trying to hit the other guy, not Luke Brown. Meanwhile the Advertiser is probably still angry about the umpiring in the Carlton v Power game and pretending there was nothing wrong with Schulz’s tackle last night.

MRP presents a headache or two

I must admit to being somewhat taken aback by the penalties offered to, and gratefully accepted by, the dastardly duo. Buddy took his eye off the ball and went for the man. The impact was sufficient for Edwards to require concussion assessment and for Buddy to self-impose a suspension for the rest of the game. Tippett, meanwhile, left the turf with his elbow raised and, not surprisingly, hit Grimes in the head. Kurt is on a self-imposed suspension most weeks.

The MRP, in its wisdom, saw it fit to classify both incidents as ‘careless conduct with medium impact to the head’. Both earned a two match holiday reduced to one with an early plea. I was surprised when I saw the MRP statement – to me both incidents seemed reckless, at the very least. The split second nature of the decisions and proximity of the ball meant they probably couldn’t be considered intentional. Admittedly, Tippett would be my second least favourite footballer if Andrew Bolt played but I reckon I’m seeing this with relatively clear eyes.

Being a Brown (we must look up the answer if it is look up-able because not knowing stuff that is knowable is, quite frankly, on the same embarrassment level as forgetting one’s pants in the morning) I looked up the AFL’s 2015 tribunal guide. My intent was to find out what the penalty would have been for the gruesome twosome had their incidents, correctly, been judged as reckless. To my surprise I discovered that they actually got rid of the reckless category at the start of the season.

Don’t be so reckless v I’ve been careless

While the changes to the MRP system were publicised at the time, they focussed on the increased use of cash fines (the AFL’s gots to have its tax free dollars) and the removal of the carry-over points system. The folding of the reckless category into careless was slipped by us like the missing onion rings in the drive-through bag (Leo Getz was correct). It would appear the MRP is now less Aussie Crawl and more Paul Kelly, in most circumstances a welcome change.

So now when looking at an incident the MRP can only now deem it careless or intentional. This is done in the name of simplification. Going back to McKee’s piece, the idea is if it’s simpler it will be easier to understand, hence less likely to draw criticism from us simpletons in the crowd. A big tick in the box there, lads!

The effect, whether intentional or otherwise, has been to force the MRP to use the lesser charge of careless because intentional would be a less appropriate description and the penalty too harsh. The impact of this is that, not including any carry-over points, Tippett’s and Franklin’s reckless actions last year would have attracted a three match ban, early plea-ed to two. The effect across the season has been, generally, to decrease penalties.

McKee is right

The reality is that McKee is right. Many fans, myself included, are quick to criticise the umpires and the MRP without a clear understanding of the rules as they currently stand. We go on our gut feeling of how it should be, usually with only one eye open. All I know from the incidents in question, including Schulz last night, is that by their actions the infringing players accepted responsibility (and a duty of care) for their opponents’ heads. As a result, responsibility for the outcome was theirs to bear.

McKee is wrong

Where McKee is wrong is that in thinking simplification will make things less controversial. In fact, complexity often arises as a result of trying to make things fairer. In reducing the complexity of the MRP system of classifying and penalising incidents, the AFL has undoubtedly made it less fair and, in the end, more controversial. Whether it amounts to a deliberate watering down of the AFL’s attempts to protect the head, only they will know. But that is the effect.

Controversy will remain – there will always be an element of subjectivity and fans will always approach them with a level of vested interest. ‘Twas ever thus as a newspaper article written 80 years ago readily attests.

About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"


  1. Patrick O'Brien says

    “Going back to McKee’s piece, the idea is if it’s simpler it will be easier to understand, hence less likely to draw criticism from us simpletons in the crowd.”

    Well it worked for Abbott and the media, so why not?

  2. Really good. I did exactly the same in downloading the Tribunal guide. People love to yell ‘what about him?’, ‘how’s this different to that?’. Answer is that the MRP are restricted to looking at it and ticking the box that applies. That’s the simple fix they were after.
    Which will mean that Schulz will get 3/2. Rough conduct, tick the box for careless, tick the box for head high/groin, tick the box for high impact.
    Fox Footy (good coverage, terrible pundits) were trying to differentiate this from Gibbs but the ‘simple’ approach won’t allow for it.
    Next, the same people for the simple approach start analysing the technicalities. ‘We wan’t what we had!’.

  3. Dave Brown says

    I fear you are right, Patrick

    Spot on, Reyno. The Ch 7 ‘brains trust’ did exactly the same thing. No-one actually bothered talking about the rules. Too lazy and hackneyed to produce anything but feelpinions (ding, ding, ding – first and last time I will use that word)

Leave a Comment