Garry Lyon calls out AFL clubs over 'disturbing' truth in tackle furore

The AFL great says clubs are bordering on unprofessional after several admissions they have ignored a clear edict from the league.

Garry Lyon is pictured left, with Brisbane Lions player Hugh McCluggage being taken from the ground by doctors on the right.
Garry Lyon has urged clubs to pay attention to the AFL's edict about dangerous tackles, as the league looks to reduce the amount of head injuries and concussions sustained by players. Pictures: Getty Images

Garry Lyon has called out AFL clubs for not instructing players on guidelines issued by the league regarding tackling, amid ongoing outcry over dangerous tackle cases that have wound up at the Tribunal. The latest outcry was sparked by the three-week ban handed to Hawthorn captain James Sicily for his tackle on Brisbane's Hugh McCluggage which left the Lions defender with a concussion.

Conversely, St Kilda were able to successfully appeal the one-game sanction imposed on Dan Butler for his chasedown tackle on Sydney's Nick Blakey. In recent weeks the AFL has distributed guidelines, including relevant video footage, to all clubs in an effort to provide clarification as the league attempts to stamp out dangerous tackles that have the potential to cause a head injury.

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The crackdown in 2023 has caused significant consternation in the AFL world, with claims the tackle is becoming extinct as a result. However Lyon has moved to quiet some of those suggestions, saying the AFL has evolved in a multitude of ways in the past and adapting tackling techniques is just the latest part of that.

It comes as The Age writer Andrew Wu points out that of the 13,578 tackles laid so far this season, only 25 have resulted in the tackler being suspended. Only 28 total have been cited by the match review officer, with Butler, Adelaide's Rory Laird and Carlton's Adam Cerra successfully appealing.

GWS Giants skipper Toby Greene and Brisbane Lions star Lachie Neale have admitted they haven't seen the information provided to clubs by the AFL, while Western Bulldogs and Fremantle coaches Luke Beveridge and Justin Longmuire have also said their players haven't seen it. Those admissions left Lyon flabbergasted, telling SEN it bordered on unprofessional not to have done so.

“That is disturbing for me. The mindset of the playing and coaching cohort is: ‘No, I don’t care. The AFL can show us all the videos in the world’,” he said.

“I know there’s passion out there and (people saying) the game is in crisis and at a crossroads and all that. If the players took the time as professionals on $800,000-$1 million a year and took the time to watch the video and educate themselves, maybe we wouldn’t have this level of confusion.”

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Fellow AFL legend Tim Watson concurred with the point about the statistically low number of tackles overall that resulted in players being suspended. Just over 1000 tackles were laid in round 13, with two of those resulting in suspension.

He agreed that the game was in a period of change, particularly with the AFL facing lawsuits from past players over the league's historical handling of players sustaining concussions, particularly in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

St Kilda's Dan Butler was cleared by the AFL tribunal after initially copping a one-match ban for this tackle on Sydney's Nick Blakey. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/AFL Photos/via Getty Images )
St Kilda's Dan Butler was cleared by the AFL tribunal after initially copping a one-match ban for this tackle on Sydney's Nick Blakey. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/AFL Photos/via Getty Images )

“There were 1008 tackles on the weekend in an abbreviated round of AFL football. Two tackles were deemed to be illegal from the MRO,” Watson noted.

“I know it’s an emotional and passionate game ... if you’d been watching the game between Melbourne and Collingwood on Monday, that was a ferocious game of physical football. Not one tackle in that game was deemed illegal by the MRO.

“St Kilda laid 99 tackles in that game against the Sydney Swans, one of those was considered illegal. That tackle went to the Tribunal and then was considered to be legal.

“Let’s just deal with the facts and what’s in front of us, as opposed to the emotion that is driving some of the argument at the moment.”

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