Richmond’s use the AFL’s contentious sub rule has come under scrutiny, after the Tigers replaced Ben Miller with a fresh-legged Maurice Rioli Jr late in the fourth quarter of their nail-biting draw with Fremantle on Friday night.
Despite showing no visible signs of discomfort, Miller was taken off with what was initially reported as a ‘groin injury’, before the fleet-footed Rioli Jr entered the fray in his place.
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The change led to scepticism from many pundits and fans on social media, who questioned the legitimacy of Miller’s injury and whether the substitution from Richmond was a tactical move instead.
Bringing the substitution further under the microscope was the fact Rioli had an almost immediate impact on the contest, making a crucial tackle to stem a dangerous Fremantle attack.
Despite the initial medical report stating Miller’s departure from the contest was due to a groin injury, Richmond later indicated the small forward had been forced to the sideline after suffering cramps.
“Benny Miller had the full body cramps. He just couldn’t move,” Tigers teammate Nathan Broad revealed post-match.
“He could not move. He genuinely could not move. His whole body had shut down."
Speaking in his post-match media conference, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick backed-up Broad’s version of events.
“I think he had calf (injury) and was cramping quite significantly towards the end, but I think he tightened up in his calf as well,” Hardwick said.
“Might be OK, I’m not too sure, I haven’t gotten a response yet.”
What a time for an inexperienced big man to be injured and replaced by a fresh fleet-footed runner. Such misfortune for the Tigers. #AFLTigersFreo
— Andrew Wu (@wutube) July 22, 2022
Damien Hardwick says Ben Miller was cramping and had a tight calf.
The medical sub rule says: “due to the nature of the injury sustained, it is reasonably determined the player will be medically unfit to participate in any match for at least the next 12 days.”
— Daniel Cherny (@DanielCherny) July 22, 2022
Was Miller even injured for Rioli to come on? Got to clear up that rule. #AFLTigersFreo
— Daniel Garb (@DanielGarb) July 22, 2022
If that sub doesn’t happen freo wins. Rioli’s chase down tackle was a game changer
— Ben Aufgang* (@ungafunga123) July 22, 2022
Dodgy sub if I’ve ever seen one
— Chad Corn⚡ (@findmeamonster) July 22, 2022
Richmond subbing out Miller for Rioli
- medical report: Miller was subbed out with a groin injury
- Hardwick: Miller was cramping and might have a tight calf
Reality: Richmond wanted fresh legs and run from Rioli #AFLTigersFreo
— SuperCoach IQ (@SuperCoachIQ) July 22, 2022
Calls for AFL to tighten substitution rules
The controversy led to a chorus of calls for the AFL to tighten up the rule regarding player substitution.
Speaking on the broadcast, former Tiger Matthew Richardson said rules around how teams use the rule needed to be more black and white to avoid exploitation.
“There’s always going to be suspicion around these changes because they seem so tactical in terms of the timing of it,” Richardson said.
“It’s why you’d love the AFL to make a decision cut and dried, they either miss the next week or they can be subbed whenever they want because there’s always suspicion about it.”
Herald Sun reporter John Ralph was in the same camp as Richardson, saying teams should just be allowed to use the substitution regardless of whether or not there is an injury.
“As Cats CEO Steve Hocking said, why not just make it a sub you can use at any time to take the suspicion out of it?” he said.
The drawn contest saw Fremantle move into third spot on the AFL ladder, while Richmond’s finals hopes remain on the cusp as they currently sit in eighth.
Richmond says Ben Miller had a groin injury which was the reason for their use of the sub. As Cats CEO Steve Hocking has said why not just make it a sub you can use at any time so it takes any suspicion out of it?
— Jon Ralph (@RalphyHeraldSun) July 22, 2022
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