'Garbage': Backlash over commentators' reaction to ugly AFL incident

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·5-min read
Kyle Hartigan, pictured here whacking Tom Hawkins over the head.
Kyle Hartigan whacked Tom Hawkins over the head well after he'd taken the mark. Image: Getty

Channel 7 commentators Brian Taylor and James Brayshaw have come under fire after making reference to the late Danny Frawley after a nasty incident in Geelong's win over Hawthorn.

Geelong survived an AFL thriller for the second week in a row, holding off rivals Hawthorn by five points in a desperate finish at the MCG on Monday.

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To make matters worse for the Hawks, defender Kyle Hartigan could be in trouble for a clumsy strike on Tom Hawkins which resulted in a 50m penalty and a crucial goal for the star Cats forward.

Hartigan whacked Hawkins over the head well after the Geelong star had taken a mark on the lead.

Hartigan argued that he was trying to spoil the ball, however the contact came way too late to be legitimate.

But speaking in commentary for Channel 7, Taylor didn't seem overly concerned by the nasty head knock and praised Hartigan.

The commentator even made reference to the late Frawley, suggesting Hartigan's actions were straight out of the St Kilda legend's playbook.

“The lead from Hawkins was perfect, and then Hartigan just giving him an old feather duster to the back of the ear,” Taylor said. 

“That’s old school. Bang! That’s our great mate 'Spud' Frawley, isn’t it? 

"He will be watching down from above, thinking, ‘That’s all you’ve got to do. Make them earn it’.”

Taylor mentioned a number of other great fullbacks, saying: “That’s the way they operated”.

Danny Frawley, pictured here during a St Kilda training session in 2017.
Danny Frawley looks on during a St Kilda training session in 2017. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Backlash over Brian Taylor's comments

Frawley died in a single-vehicle car crash in 2019.

He was later found to have CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is associated with repeated blows to the head and can only be diagnosed after death.

Frawley's wife Anita has been campaigning to change attitudes towards head knocks in the AFL ever since.

So it was no surprise to see Taylor's comments spark some backlash among AFL fans and pundits.

“Wasn’t a good look listening to the Channel 7 commentators complimenting Hartigan for bit of old fashioned play either," journalist Brendan Casey tweeted.

“Sensitive issue of concussions and commentary team calling it ‘the ol’ feather duster’.”

Josh Elliott wrote: “If we want to be serious about concussion, commentators need to handle this kind of thing a lot better than in the below. Danny Frawley had stage two CTE when he died.”

Sports reporter Oliver Caffrey added: “Exactly what Anita Frawley has been pleading for commentators to stop doing. The message still not getting through.”

While journalist Rohan Connolly was scathing of Hartigan, writing: "Someone tell Kyle Hartigan it’s 2021, not 1981. Can’t do that sort of garbage anymore mate."

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Anita Frawley wants attitudes in the AFL to change

Anita Frawley has previously spoken about her wish to make the AFL as safe as possible.

“I want to make it safe. I don’t want my daughters’ daughters’ sons going to play football and having to worry about if they’re going to be looked after properly,” she told the 'In the Game' podcast last month.

“The AFL are trying, they’re starting, but there’s still a long way to go. Football back in Danny’s day, it was all known about toughness … that was such a part of the game. It’s not anymore.

“These boys are so athletic, so skilful … let’s focus on that, let’s change the way they talk about the players.

“‘Oh he’s so brave backing into a pack and nearly getting killed’. No. We don’t want to make that something great. 

"It’s dangerous. You don’t know the untold damage that’s being done so let’s change a few things.

“The players have to want to change it was well … look after your brain.”

Danny Frawley's wife Anita, pictured here with daughters Chelsea, Keeley and Danielle.
Danny Frawley's wife Anita with daughters Chelsea, Keeley and Danielle. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

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