The AFL's edict against players winning free kicks by ducking or shrugging tackles has opened a can of worms, with former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire fearing a 'minefield' for umpires.
McGuire claimed the umpires were focused on Magpies forward Jack Ginnivan, who has inadvertently become the subject of ire among AFL fans for the tendency to win high contact free kicks by dropping in a tackle.
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Ginnivan is far from the only player in recent AFL history to be hit with such accusations, with Geelong champion Joel Selwood memorably at the centre of similar commentary in seasons past.
The league this week re-affirmed its direction to umpires not to reward players who attempt to draw high contact by ducking, shrugging or dropping into the tackler.
It was a move that sparked serious consternation in the AFL world, with concern it was place even more burden on the umpires and potentially lead to move head injuries.
McGuire said it was clear the narrative surrounding Ginnivan, in particular, was affecting the way he was treated by umpires.
“Forget that I‘m a Collingwood man. I watched all the games on the weekend and I watched different games of football at three different grounds … you can‘t tell me that the umpires weren’t absolutely preoccupied on Ginnivan,” he said on Footy Classified.
“I haven‘t heard anything from the AFL to say that was umpired in a particular way, different to anyone else. I think the red herring was what came out this week.”
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan controversially suggested this week that players had been 'exploiting' the high contact rule for some time.
"I'm really concerned that you've now got carte blanche to go in and belt a bloke if you think he's dropped his knees."
Eddie McGuire's passionate response to the treatment of Jack Ginnivan, and the crackdown on players drawing head-high contact.#9FootyClassified | @Channel9 pic.twitter.com/AO0TtD2ayo
— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) July 20, 2022
McLachlan said that the edict was simply 'the same rule, clarified', however McGuire wasn't buying the explanation.
“I‘m really concerned that you’ve now got carte blanche to go in and belt a bloke if you think he’s dropped his knees,” McGuire said.
“Is this dropping your head, (where you) used to be able to protect yourself like a boxer, tuck your head in under your shoulder, lower your body to go for the ball, set yourself for a bump?"
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McGuire argued the AFL 'clarification' would not only expose players to more unneccesary risk, but also lead to endless debates at the Tribunal.
Now, instead of looking at whether the defending player had executed the tackle properly, McGuire predicted 'biomechanists' would be called to the Tribunal to examine whether or not a player had deliberately drawn high contact.
“I reckon we‘re going to see blokes going, ‘right, it’s on here,’ in with a punch. A rule that‘s supposed to stop concussion is going to, in my mind, promulgate concussion, or at least (lead to) people throwing dangerous headhigh tackles.
“Your going to go to the tribunal and have biomechanists saying, ‘He dropped his knee, he did this’.
“I just think there is an old-fashioned rule in this game — if you hit somebody in the head it‘s a free kick … I would like us to go back to the old days when they came into the under-11s and the umpire said, ‘if you go the ball, the ball will protect you, and I will protect you as the umpire’.
“Geez, I‘ll tell you what, there’s a minefield opening up here. If someone gets their head knocked off next week, gets their jaw broken, see what happens.”
McGuire wasn't alone in his scepticism, with Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge unimpressed by the timing of the AFL announcement.
Beveridge said the player who has his head over the footy must be rewarded.
"Ultimately penalise the guy who hasn't tackled how he should have tackled," he said.
"I'm happy for the marginal ones to be play-on but let's not change things again, because the umpires have got it hard enough.
"I think the pressure from the media comes around and probably the supporter bases as well and it's another flinch."
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