The Bump is alive

The bump hasn’t hit the wall and it isn’t dead.  Round seven was filled with bumps that left players injured.  The hysteria is astounding, because James Kelly deserved to get suspended and Brendan Goddard lied.


Former premiership coach Allan Jeans knew the worth of the bump.  It was a fair tactic, though the Jeans philosophy doesn’t contain much fairness.  ‘Bump an opponent only when he is not aware of your presence,’ Jeans said.  ‘On all other occasions, tackle hard and in the correct manner.’


Geelong’s James Kelly certainly bumped Goddard when he was caught unaware, taking advantage and leaping off the ground at pace.  Goddard was flattened but got up and played on.


Though Kelly’s bump was applauded and lauded as tradition, he was suspended for two weeks.  Teammates, fans and opponents disagreed with the match review panel’s decision.  Kill tradition and you kill the game they cried.  The bump, it seems, has more friends than it does enemies.


The players, it seems, want to see footballers concussed, fractured and hurt.


As Allan Jeans suggested, the bump is an acceptable shock tactic used on unsuspecting players, designed to cause hurt and shatter confidence.


Old as football, the bump’s importance to the game is paramount, in getting the ball, defending the ball and hammering the opposition.


But the bump is not always in the spirit of the game.  Blindsiding a footballer belongs to another era where tolerant umpires reported only the most obvious of offences.


Taking a footballer out like Kelly did is not the act of a courageous man.  It is the act of a callous, cruel individual with mean intentions.


Back in 1998, the AFL began to look closely at the bump when Essendon’s Joe Misiti was flattened by North Melbourne’s Byron Pickett in a pre-season game.  Misiti ended up with a broken jaw from Pickett’s shoulder.


Later in 1998 Geelong’s Gary Hocking ran past the umpire as he bounced the ball and took out St Kilda’s Robert Harvey.  Harvey was hurt but played out the game.  Hocking, reported for rough play was ultimately let off.


The tribunal couldn’t find a relevant rule to suspend Hocking.


In the 1998 semi-final, North Melbourne’s Adam Simpson targeted Essendon’s Ben Doolan who was lurking near the play.  Doolan didn’t see Simpson coming and was lucky to get up.


The AFL was forced to take action when St Kilda’s Justin Koschitzke was seriously injured by the Western Bulldogs Daniel Giansiracusa.


Koschitzke was shadowing an opponent and didn’t know Giansiracusa was lining him up.  He was candy.  The incident left Koschitzke with a fractured skull.  He has never been the same footballer since.


As Allan Jeans said, bump an opponent only when he is not aware of your presence.  That’s when it’s savagely effective.


At the time it was within the rules to take a man out in a shepherd or during a contest for the ball.  It still is.  The AFL had left the legislation alone because the bump is a fundamental right of footballers.


And it wasn’t just Koschitzke who was seriously injured.  In the same year, Collingwood journeyman Blake Caracella suffered a broken neck when Brisbane’s Tim Notting cannoned into him at the MCG.


Caracella ended up in hospital, an inch away from a wheelchair.


Back in 2006, AFL boss Andrew Demetriou said the rules regarding head-high contact were consistent.


‘I don’t think you can ever underestimate the complexities of a bump or a particular tackle, they happen in an instant,’ Demetriou said.  ‘Sometimes we see some really horrible injuries, but they are part of the game.’


Demetriou was right and dreadfully narrow-minded.  Bumps and tackles do happen in an instant.  Injuries are an accepted part of the game.  But injuries that are caused when a blindsided player is crashed into should not be part of the game.


After much filibustering, the AFL finally decreed that the head was sacrosanct.  Any contact, accidental or otherwise, would be scrutinised.


Bumping was still allowed, players just couldn’t shatter the skull or facial bones.


Aficionados howled madly back then about the bump disappearing from the game.  Those same miscreants forgot about the serious injuries the bump was causing.


As the debate rages on about the bump, those same fools are ignoring the same potential for serious injury that they did seven years ago.


Making the head sacrosanct hasn’t killed the bump.  And for the traditionalists, the weekend was a great example for injury caused by bumps.


Geelong’s Taylor Hunt suffered a broken collarbone after being bumped.  But worse was the concussion suffered by Gold Coast’s Jared Brennan, who was bumped by Melbourne’s Colin Sylvia.


Brennan was carted off.  Sylvia got three weeks.


St Kilda’s Nathan Wright had his jaw broken after a bump from Carlton’s Eddie Betts.  Betts was also given three weeks.


Goddard was millimetres away from a busted jaw, too.  Kelly was lucky he didn’t aim higher.


Sylvia, Kelly and Betts lined up their opponents and took them out.  Their actions were unnecessary and dangerous.  Kelly could’ve impeded Goddard by holding out an arm.  Sylvia and Betts didn’t need to make contact at all.


All three deserved to be suspended.  What they did isn’t in the spirit of the game.  It’s been outlawed for years, yet they still did it.  So the traditionalists don’t need to worry about the bump being dead.


There’s always going to be footballers who want to take out an opponent.


It is concerning that the most vocal critics of Kelly’s suspension are current and former players.  It seems the potential for a broken jaw is acceptable, just part of the game, just something we love…


Okay, so let it happen in a grand final, and a star like Luke Hodge or Dane Swan is carried off with a busted jaw.


The bump isn’t dead.  The bump that breaks a jaw or causes concussion isn’t dead either.  It’s outlawed, as it has been for years, ever since Justin Koschitzke had his skull fractured.


Despite the legislation, horrible injuries still happen in footy.  Footballers have a duty of care to their opponents but they often ignore it.
When they transgress there is punishment.  It is rarely unjustified…



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. I agree with you 100% Matt. I hate the “bump/collision/block/charge” when the player on the receiving end is clearly not in the play or reasonably likely to be receiving the ball.
    As you and Yabby said it is delivered on the unsuspecting player precisely because it causes the maximum damage. It is a cowardly act, whatever ‘tradition’ attaches to it. It should be umpired/legislated/suspended out of the game.
    I thought the Tribunal (or whatever its called these days) created a horrible precedent when they let Lindsay Thomas off early in the season for his attack on Ben Reid.
    The one concession I will make is that it is hard to define when a player is not in the contest. I have grappled with whether it should be a defined distance from the ball; or the player not being a likely recipient of the ball (we know it when we see it but it is hard to objectively define).
    In the Goddard/Kelly charge the ball had come out the other side of the contest and Goddard was turning to run off to the next contest. If you allow ‘taking him out’ in that context then we should only draft schoolteachers and wives (people with the eyes in the back of their head).

  2. “Taking a footballer out like Kelly did is not the act of a courageous man. It is the act of a callous, cruel individual with mean intentions.”

    Crickey Matt you make him sound like Stalin!

    I disagree. Comparing Kelly’s action to what happened to Kosi is not a fair comparison. I thought Kelly’s bump was fair (no one got hurt), in the play,( Goddard was trying to get to Christensen, not the next contest), executed without an elbow, and not delivered to the head. By definition, then, it was delivered without malice.

    The bump isn’t dead, I agree. But it is very confused.

  3. Lord Bogan says

    Dips, our hairlines have got a better chance of surviving.

  4. We only seem able to agree on one thing. Our hairlines are all running to the next contest to recede.

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