Special Sub

Friday 30 May 2014, St Kilda v Collingwood, 7 seconds into the game an errant Sidebottom elbow collects Maverick Weller’s chin. Weller is taken off and tested for concussion. 20 minutes later he is tried back on the field where he lasts a couple of minutes before being subbed out of the game.

Here’s a golden opportunity for the AFL to walk the walk. I leave it to others to sort out the details, but I would argue that in this particular case, St Kilda lost a player to a head injury caused in a reported incident. Unusually, the incident occurred at the very start of the game, so St Kilda was down a player through the entire match.

Under such circumstances, I believe St Kilda should have been allowed to replace Weller with another player, perhaps one of their emergencies. They could then recalculate whom to use as the initial sub.

In the event, St Kilda was unfairly disadvantaged. The team later lost another player through injury and was even further disadvantaged.

The team with the possibly concussed player would have no incentive for trying to get him to stay in the game. Border-line situations would not present undue pressure to the medical and coaching staff; they could err on the side of caution. This would be the AFL really protecting the players’ heads.

It doesn’t matter whether the reported player is subsequently cleared or not. The umpire clearly thought his behaviour was outside the rules. Why should the victim’s team be disadvantaged?

The final say might be left in the hands of the third umpire.

Such incidents occur infrequently. I would not expect there to be more than two or three a season.

If the basic idea were adopted, it might be extended to other situations. I don’t mean injuries that are unfortunate incidents; I only mean those which are the result of unfair behaviour by the opposition. I don’t think Sidebottom deliberately set out to deck Weller; that’s not his style. But according to the umpire it was completely and unarguably Sidebottom’s fault. There was no way that Weller contributed to, or played for, the contact. Well, except that he did the one thing we want to encourage in our game: he pursued and took possession of the ball.

I’m sure the idea as presented is incomplete. Probably I’ve overlooked problems. But I think it’s worth considering and refining.

About Charlie Krebs

The Footy Bogan is a self-confessed unrepentant Collingwood tragic. For more years than he cares to remember he has been writing about footy, mainly Collingwood, but sometimes, when provoked, about related matters. He started his self-titled blog in July 2011 when - but you can read all about that at http://thefootybogan.blogspot.com.au/


  1. Charlie

    Sensible suggestion.

    The other thing that could be discussed is a send off rule, either temporarily or for the game. Sidebottom was reported and will sit out three games but played out the game on Friday night. (Weller as you point out was inneffective as a result). And, although the Pies will miss him, he can be replaced and the Pies will still field 22 on Monday.

    The Saints, in the opening minutes, were effectively playing with one less. There’s an argument that acts like that one, or worse ones that deliberately injure a player and bring down a side’s overall numbers shoudl be dealt with on the night not days later.

    Even if, as it is done in lower levels, it is a yellow card for 10 minutes or so, it will take out deliberate acts that win a game through their actions


  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Totally agree Charlie and with , Sean’s point above have always felt the rules do not support the disadvantaged side what so ever , at the very least ,
    Sidebottom should be suspended for the next two games plus the next time the pies play the saints ( this rule should apply in all serious cases in all grades of footy )

  3. Dave Brown says

    Spot on Charlie. You could go further and have a ‘concussion sub’ that can be activated any time there is a concussion as long as it occurred during play, regardless of the incident. That should ensure that there is no pressure to attempt to continue a concussed player. There would need to be some way to ensure it is not abused – perhaps the concussed player has to miss the next match

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