An unexpected talking point emerged mid-way through the semi-final clash between Brisbane and GWS on Saturday night, with an umpire threatening to pay a free kick against the Giants for targeting an injured player.
Lions forward Charlie Cameron came from the ground early in the first quarter after appearing to gruesomely hyperextend his elbow as he tried to make a tackle.
He spent nearly 10 minutes off the ground getting attention and strapping done on his elbow, before returning to the field prior to quarter time and booting a goal.
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But it was the actions of his direct opponent, Giants defender Adam Kennedy, which raised the ire of umpire Shaun Ryan.
After noticing Kennedy appear to target Cameron’s heavily strapped elbow as the pair jostled behind play, Ryan ran over to warn the defender against making unnecessary contact with Cameron’s arm.
“Do not be knocking his arm, OK? You’ve been warned,” Ryan could be heard telling Kennedy.
“You knock his arm, it’s against the spirit of the game, OK?
“If you continually knock his arm, I will pay a free kick. You’ve been warned, I’ve told you.”
Fans, commentators split over umpire’s warning
Ryan’s warning for Kennedy raised mixed reactions, with Channel 7 commentators Matthew Richardson and Cameron Ling arguing that, since Cameron was on the ground and playing, he was not an injured player.
While Ling said Cameron was ‘fair game’, while he was out on the field.
Richardson added that the umpire would have been better served staying out of the situation.
“He’s allowed to have a little bit of touch on him,” Richardson said.
“The umpire doesn’t need to be involved in that. Just get involved if it’s a clear free kick, otherwise just stay out of it.”
Fans were more divided on social media, with many pointing to a clause in the AFL rulebook which prohibits ‘unreasonable or unnecessary contact with an injured opposition player’.
Much of the debate centred around whether Cameron should be considered an injured playing, considering he had taken the field in spite of his elbow problem.
Interesting discussion regarding the umpire telling Adam Kennedy not to touch Charlie Cameron's arm. Don't recall seeing that a few years ago when Will Langford targeted Gary Ablett's hurt arm. If it's within the rules then it's fair game I would've thought. #afllionsgiants— Clement Tito (@ClementGTito) September 14, 2019
That Umpire just crossed the line warning the Giants player touching/whacking Charlie Cameron’s elbow.— Cheap Stat (@CheapStat) September 14, 2019
Do we now need a Rule for injured players on the ground? Should injured players be on the ground?
Contact Sport Ump. Allowed when players aren’t injured.#AFLLionsGiants
Charlie Cameron is fair game if he is back out there playing. Umpire should stay out of it unless it’s over the top then just pay a free kick.— Matt Jackson (@Mjackson_racing) September 14, 2019