AFL 'villain' sparks heated debate after Collingwood controversy

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·Sports Reporter
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Jack Ginnivan's propensity for drawing high contact free kicks has sparked a massive AFL debate.
A heated AFL debate has erupted over Collingwood forward Jack Ginnivan's propensity to draw free kicks for high tackles. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The playing style of Collingwood’s Jack Ginnivan has come under fire after the rising star was accused of ‘milking’ free kicks by former All-Australian Leigh Montagna.

Ginnivan was awarded two free kicks during the first quarter of the Magpies’ 72-68 win over Hawthorn on Sunday, with both decisions leading directly to Collingwood goals.

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However, Ginnivan’s claims that he was the victim of more high tackles after the break fell on deaf ears, leading to speculation on social media that officials were becoming increasingly suspicious of his role in the drawing illegal contact.

Ginnivan has kicked 21 goals so far during the 2022 season, but 10 of those have come directly from free kicks, resulting in some intense scrutiny surrounding the 19-year-old’s methods.

The Collingwood rookie had some sympathy from the likes of former Port Adelaide star Kane Cornes, but it hasn't prevented the topic of players drawing high-contact free kicks deliberately from once again entering the AFL debate.

Speaking to media post match, Collingwood head coach Craig McRae defended Ginnivan’s play, suggesting he was now being unfairly targeted by umpires.

“Maybe I need to get some clarity because as far as I’m aware that is a free kick,” McRae said of one particular tackle on Ginnivan by Hawthorn’s Changkuoth Jiath that went unpenalised.

“But thinking you can’t get paid a free kick because we don’t like it that you’re getting free kicks, I’m not sure that’s the case. I’ll just get some clarity around that.

“Playing for free kicks is an interesting way of putting it. I think players are really good at avoiding tackles, and learning how to evade tackles and make it be hard to tackled.

“We tell our players to spend time over the ball, which means you’re likely to get front-on contact, but we want to keep the ball in front of us.

“Being tackled versus getting tackled, we practise that. I think it’s a skill, and it forces the tackler to really be on his best game. Is there a rule? There’s no rule against it at the minute.”

Social media came alive with the debate both during and after the match.

It's far from the first time players have sparked debate by earning free kicks for high tackles.

Western Bulldogs forward Cody Weightman endured similar criticism last season, while Geelong veteran Joel Selwood has long dealt with accusations that he slides under tackles to earn free kicks.

Collingwood furious over Jack Ginnivan AFL debate

Speaking on Fox Footy’s First Crack shortly after the contest, Montagna disagreed with McRae’s take that Ginnivan was a completely innocent party in the controversy, describing his actions as ‘not in the spirit of the game’.

“I don’t think that milking a free kick is a skill,” Montagna said.

“It‘s just got everyone thinking about: Is this the reputation that he wants to have going forward as an AFL player?”

“He‘s only young into his career, he’s had a terrific start across 14 games, but does he want this to be his brand? Does he want to be identified as a player that ducks and dives for free kicks that the opposition players and the opposition fans see as villain No. 1?

“I don’t care if he wants to be this way. If this is what he wants, it‘s up to him if he wants this reputation and this brand as a player that’s going to be known for ducking and diving every time he goes near the ball and gets contact.”

Collingwood want a 'please explain' from the AFL over several high tackles on Jack Ginnivan they believe didn't earn the whistle from the umpire. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
Collingwood want a 'please explain' from the AFL over several high tackles on Jack Ginnivan they believe didn't earn the whistle from the umpire. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Collingwood prevailed in a nail-biter over Hawthorn thanks to a match-winning goal from 19-year-old Oliver Henry.

Henry's calm set shot from 40 metres at the 21-minute mark of the last quarter put the Magpies in front for the final time as they prevailed 10.12 (72) to 10.8 (68) on Sunday at the MCG.

The 19-year-old forward, in his second season and 19th game, had missed from the same spot two minutes earlier but held his nerve in the decisive moment.

Henry finished with two important goals in a performance that continued his upward trajectory after he was dropped to the substitute role following a wayward display in round nine.

With AAP

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