The AFL has come under fire after its response to a high tackle controversy involving Collingwood young gun Jack Ginnivan after maintaining that he initiated the contact.
League officials admit the Pies player should have been awarded a free kick after impact with Essendon's Mason Redman in Sunday's last-second victory.
Ginnivan was caught high by Redman during the first quarter of Sunday's last-gasp win over Essendon but did not receive a whistle for a free kick.
But while the AFL says the umpire initially made the right call, they should have penalised Redman after he continued to hold Ginnivan around the neck.
It came just days after the league moved to clarify its high contact rule, following fierce debate around whether Ginnivan was being umpired differently to other players.
"I think his reputation cost him there Jack Ginnivan!"
Very controversial call here - was the right call made?
📺 Watch #AFLPiesDons LIVE on ch. 503 or stream on Kayo: https://t.co/VW2QcsCOrm
✍️ BLOG: https://t.co/uHTjMRuAka
🔢 MATCH CENTRE https://t.co/vHdQFqOus4 pic.twitter.com/TVo3eXTkyP
— Fox Footy (@FOXFOOTY) July 24, 2022
"Ginnivan is responsible for the initial high contact however (Mason) Redman then continues with the tackle in an unreasonable manner, holding Ginnivan around the neck," an AFL statement read.
"In this instance a free kick should have been awarded to Ginnivan.
"Overall the umpires did a terrific job of officiating the high tackle interpretation in all games over the weekend."
The AFL's statement has not washed with with fans, former players and commentators, many of whom have accused them of failing in their duty to protect players from dangerous contact.
The league had said players would not be given free kicks when they ducked or shrugged in tackles to create high contact.
Ginnivan was cited as one of three examples in the league's memo and has been an unwitting lightning rod this season for criticism of players who attempt to draw free kicks.
Collingwood teammate Mason Cox was one of many to slam the AFL for “blatantly” failing to protect the health of the young star.
“Wild to think high tackles were put in the game to protect players health and now are being blatantly ignored for a 19 year old. How can we think “the AFL cares about concussions and head high contact” after this,” Cox tweeted.
The AFLs own statement said “Ginnivan had been responsible for the initial high contact..”
Is that not prior opportunity then?
As always, clear as mud from the AFL 🤷♂️ https://t.co/lQBi95Ot93
— Luke P Gavin ❤️💙🏆 (@LukePGavin) July 26, 2022
The AFLs new interpretation will actually reduce the incidence of high contact though, by discouraging players from intentionally placing their head in harms way.
Also not sure you can make the argument the AFL doesn't care about Ginnivan's welfare when Ginnivan himself (1/2)
— Nick (@Cromaddo) July 26, 2022
In typical AFL fashion…in trying to solve a problem they create a bigger one! The AFL saying that the high tackle was initiated by Ginnivan is a disgrace and very dangerous.
— Damo (@17magpie) July 25, 2022
Utter disgrace by AFL They have joined the press in victimising Jack Ginnivan Outrageous by all in these attacks
— K A Latchford (@klatchfo95) July 25, 2022
Concerns Jack Ginnivan is being unfairly targeted
Former Collingwood star Dane Swan also labelled the AFL's response to the Ginnivan incident as a "f***ing disgrace" and said the league should be "ashamed of themselves".
Collingwood legend Tony Shaw accused the AFL of persecuting Ginnivan in a heated swipe on social media.
"This issue won't go away even after a great game," the Magpies' 1990 premiership captain posted on Twitter.
"The AFL has persecuted a player on a whim and now has again opened up umpires to embarrassment due to this Ginnivan interpretation."
However, Collingwood coach Craig McRae said after consultation with AFL football boss Brad Scott, he was satisfied with the situation moving forward.
"I'm really comfortable where it sits, that's a free kick for me and I said that (on Sunday)," he told Fox Sports.
"It's such a hard game to interpret ... the rule for me seems really simple, based on the interpretation of it, but then how do you adjudicate that?
"I just feel for the umpires, I wonder how we could take that stress away from them."
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.