One left hook

Folks, for those of you who don’t know Tomas Bugg is wearing the blue trunks, Callum Mills the red. Bugg is the one with the power and aggression, looking to load up early and end it quickly. Mills has more finesse and he’s a superb athlete with a  lot of skills but we’re going to find out tonight what happens if and when Bugg lands a bomb and I’ve got a feeling Mills is gonna get knocked out.


There’s the bell for round one. They circle each other. Mills gets close enough to push Bugg and they clinch. The referee separates them and Bugg moves away, looking for an opening while Mills stalks and holds his ground. He’s trying to show Bugg he’s not intimidated which isn’t a bad tactic but I don’t like to see him carrying his hands so low. If I were him I’d have my hands up protecting my chin because Bugg doesn’t need much of an opening to score.


Bugg throws a wild right hand and Mills spins him round and ducks the left hook.  He pushes Bugg away and moves out of range, exactly as he’s got to do.  He’s got to frustrate Bugg, land the jab and hope for a long fight that’ll wear him out.


Bugg misses with the jab and Mills ties him up, spins him round again. Bugg comes after him, wild again with the right hand. The left misses. Mills steps back, hands low and






Oh boy, Tomas Bugg. What a left hook from nowhere. I mentioned earlier if Bugg landed a big punch this fight is over and that’s exactly what happened.


There’s a lot of people in the ring now, a bit of push and shove. This can happen after a dramatic moment like that.  Now look at the replay and watch this left hook. You can see Mills had taken his eyes off Bugg and didn’t see the punch coming and BAM it landed right on the chin. Now look at Mills’s eyes joggle as the punch lands and he’s out cold before he hit the ground.


Now we’re getting a replay from a different angle. Watch Tomas Bugg’s hips for a moment as he throws the punch. You can see the effort he puts into the hook. As he throws the left hook his hips twist with the punch as he puts everything into it.


That’s 80 kilograms of Tomas Bugg landing flush on Mills’s chin. No fighter in the world can get up after a shot like that.


You could almost see Tomas thinking to himself as long as I’m throwing my arms around I may as well turn over a left hook.


We’re back live now and as you can see Mills is up and we do hope he’s going to be alright because we don’t like seeing this. He’s a young man with a good future and while knockouts are exciting we’re always worried for the guy who gets knocked out.


You can see the medical staff around Mills and folks, there’s no need to worry with those guys in charge I can tell you. The AFL has some of the best doctors working with the clubs.  And look at Mills getting top class assistance.


One thing in his favour and I know he didn’t see the punch coming but he only got hit with one shot. If Bugg landed more than one there could’ve been some serious damage.


So folks, I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted. It was a 26-second knockout to Terrible Tomas Bugg.


Now listen to that. The crowd’s applauding Mills leaves the ring. He’s still dazed but he’s not getting carried out of the ring on a stretcher.


Oh boy. You can see Bugg’s punch opening up all sorts of doors for him now. He’s answered all those questions about ability and strength. More importantly if he wants those big money fights in a year or two there’s nothing to hold him back.


I tell you tonight Tomas Bugg’s made a big believer out of me and if there are any doubters out there still we’re going to show you the replay again.


It’s always a big moment in any fight when the first punch lands and you can see Mills, who wasn’t even watching Bugg, couldn’t handle it.


He’s never been hit that hard in his career.  Here it is again folks, right on the chin and watch how he just collapses, arms and legs all over the place like a loose puppet.  Oh man, what a shot.  Just like Mike Tyson and Joe Frazier.  If they’re watching now and I hope they are they could identify with a punch like that because they knocked out a lot of guys with the same shot.


Bugg’s trainer Simon Goodwin has some work to do though.  Bugg has undoubted power but Roos would want him to throw shorter hooks and not leave himself wide open when he does it because the upper echelon of hfighters will see the hook coming and make him pay.


Larry Merchant is in the ring and he’s got Goodwin now.


‘What were you thinking going into the fight and what did you think would happen if Tomas Bugg landed a big punch?’


‘Everyone knows Tomas’s power. He’s been a solid performer for years, has won titles and he backs himself every time.’


‘Did you think Mills would get up?’


‘I didn’t see the punch land. I was talking to the cut-man when it happened but when I saw Mills down I knew he wasn’t getting up.’


‘What were your thoughts the moment you saw he was down and what did you think of Bugg spreading his arms out as though he wanted to know what had just happened.’


‘When he was down I could see he was hurt and I knew Tomas hit him. I just thought I should let the officials take care of it and see how it panned out. I’m only the trainer. What happened to Mills after the knockdown is the referee’s responsibility. What happens after the knockout will be taken care of by the AFL’


‘But do you condone that kind of knockout? Mills wasn’t even looking at Bugg when the punch landed.’


‘These things happen. I’ll have a look at the tape and talk to Tomas and we’ll work it out from there.’


‘Are you happy?’


‘Not entirely. Tomas needs to shorten his left hook.’


Back to reality.


The fantasy is over. Tomas Bugg isn’t a boxer. He can throw a wicked left hook. Anyone can throw a left hook, however meek and helpless it may be. Bugg’s problem is he threw a left hook and it landed flush on Callum Mills’s jaw.


Bugg is in trouble with the AFL. Today, the tribunal will land a telling blow, delivering a penalty to knock Bugg out of the competition. The question the tribunal will answer is basic. How long is a left hook worth?


There is no known defence for Bugg’s punch. Saying it wasn’t premeditated isn’t an excuse.  It’s impossible to write it off as an accident. No one throws an accidental left hook with bad intentions. If it misses, then that’s the accident.


It was a bad incident, the type the AFL has worked hard to eradicate. Bugg’s hook was thrown a week after Richmond’s Bachar Houli razed Carlton’s Jed Lamb with a forearm to the jaw. Houli received four weeks on appeal, after initially mesmerising the tribunal with references. Knockouts are a bad look for the game. The AFL appealing a tribunal decision is just as bad.


Like Lamb, Mills wasn’t watching when the punch landed and had no opportunity of protecting himself. No one can dispute they weren’t blindsided. It wasn’t a forearm in a tackle or a charge in a marking contest. It wasn’t a trip, vilification or kicking.


Mills and Lamb were knocked out while playing football.


Bugg reached out to Mills to apologise. He could do nothing else but follow Houli’s lead.


Back in 2008, Barry Hall was suspended for seven weeks for knocking out Brent Staker in similar circumstances. A week later, Hall demanded the AFL introduce a send-off rule.


‘There is no doubt that’s what should have happened to me on Saturday night,’ Hall wrote in his newspaper column.


‘Particularly if the player injured is not coming back on to the field. It is unfair to have the opposition one good player down when you’ve just whacked him and you are still able to keep running around.’


It’s a fair point, emphatic as Hall’s devastating left hook.


That the AFL has forever resisted introducing a send-off rule doesn’t make sense. Lower grades have a send-off rule. Other codes have a send-off rule.


In two weeks, two players have been knocked unconscious by punches or forearms. The aggressors played on. It is a bad look for the game. The perpetrators must be punished.


The third umpire can make the call if the on-field umpires can’t. This type of brutality deserves immediate removal from play. The send-off.


Hall called for it nine years ago. He is qualified to do so. The AFL is bound to implement it.


About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Stainless says

    I lurch between two views on this subject.

    View 1. Physical violence is just that. It doesn’t matter whether it’s codified, medically supervised and occurs in a ring between two consenting adults, or if it’s a random punch on a footy field. I find both abhorrent and would happily see boxing and other such “sports” outlawed. I find the commentary glorifying boxing technique and the ability of boxers to sustain and dish out punishment sickening and not a little hypocritical when juxtaposed with sermonizing about incidents like Thomas Bugg. Humanity might once have needed to practice the art of self-defence in days when life was nasty, brutish and short. But if we really believe categorically that we need to throw the book at illegal on-field violence because it has no place in civilised society, then why the hell are we still happy to condone sports, the object of which is to physically maim your opponent to the point where they are unable to continue?

    View 2. Part of our fascination with sports such as football is the risk of physical violence and injury. Players submit their bodies to this risk. Spectators watch in awe at others taking the risks that they wouldn’t take themselves. Eliminate the risk and the appeal of the sport is diminished. My point here is that the risk includes violent acts that are a)legal physical contact, b) accidental or unintentional contact and c) illegal and premeditated violent acts. The last of these is important. Physical contests such as football require participants to do their best to beat their opponents within the laws of the game, but tempt them to resort to tactics outside the laws to get their way. Part of the fascination of watching the game is to see how individual players handle that mental test – who overcomes it and who succumbs. And here’s the rub – the life lesson if you like. Sometimes the perpetrator of the “dog act” gets away with it and wins the day. It’s unjust, it’s unconscionable, but it’s life. So by all means, legislate as harshly as you like to try and stamp out illegal violence, but don’t diminish the game’s potential for it to occur. (BTW – under View 2 I still can’t get my head around a sport that just involves bashing someone else.)

  2. Dave Brown says

    A compelling argument Matt. However, I’m very wary of the red card. I think the red card in elite footy would cause more problems than it solves. It’s not the Bugg situation that causes the problem, it’s the ones that are more grey. At the SANFL level they have the send off (particularly if a player gets reported twice in the same match) and its most recent application, where one of the two reports was mistaken and subsequently dropped, demonstrates the problem of pre-judging a situation when you have a process with some level of due-ness.

    How do we deal with this, then? Bugg should be charged with assault. The prospect of a criminal record might deter players more than sitting out a few quarters/games of football.

  3. Send off rule ?

    The VFA, the predecessor of what we now call the VFL , had a send off rule for a few years, but i don’t think it lasted long. Jog my memory, in a Coburg V Williamstown GF in the late 1980’s the Coburg Captain Coach got sent off: Coburg lost. Subsequently Cleary was exonerated of his actions, but his team still lost .

    Charging the players with assault ? Again i need my memory tweaked. Didn’t Terry Wallace pursue legal action against Rod Grinter for the episode in R 2 1988? Another very serious king hit, probably the worst i can recall, was when Jimmy O’Dea king hit John Greening in R 14 1972. It took a long time to go to the tribunal, Greening WAS NEVER THE SAME PLAYER, and there were mutterings of legal actions, though i can’t recall how it panned out.

    It’s a vexed issue this one . In some areas the AFL is now no longer considered a contact sport. Take a few steps over from there to talk about red cards and possible criminal sanctions i’m curious how it all ends up. A conversation we have to have but no easy panaceas.


  4. matt watson says

    Stainless, I love boxing. But each time I watch a fight it leaves me feeling odd. Mystified. Why do I like to see to men belt hell from each other? Knowing they will never be the same when they leave the ring…
    You nailed it however. It is risk. They are taking risks I could never dream of.
    In terms of the Bugg hit, I was petrified all my junior and senior football career (retired at 25) that someone would punch me in the face. It happened about a dozen times I can remember. Elbows, forearms or fists. Never justified, always gutless.
    I hated footy like that.
    Dave, you raise a very good point, an assault charge instead of a red-card. Why can violence like Bugg and Hall and Houli be tolerated because it happened on the field. An assault charge and suspension won’t stamp it out, but it will ensure it is treated as it should be.
    Glen, it will be interesting to see how the AFL react. They ignored Barry Hall in 2008. Maybe time to revisit Hall’s request…
    Cheers to all.

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