Sydney Swans coach John Longmire has become the latest AFL coach to question the consistency of the dangerous contact rule, after Geelong's Mitch Duncan escaped penalty for a collision which left Swans player Robbie Fox in the concussion protocols. The AFL has placed an emphasis on actions which have the potential to cause a head injury this season, however the Match Review Officer found Duncan had not acted 'unreasonably' in the collision.
Several coaches have sought clarifications from the AFL over the new emphasis, with Longmire comparing Duncan's collision with Fox to the round one clash between Buddy Franklin and Gold Coast Suns defender Sam Collins. Sydney's already injury-hit defence took another blow due to Fox entering the concussion protocols, though it had little effect on the 93-point drubbing they copped from Geelong.
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Match review officer Michael Christian determined that while there was high contact, Duncan hadn't caused it on his own, either deliberately or negligently. He determined Fox had lowered his body just before contact was made, leaving Duncan with no time to adjust.
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"Geelong Cats' Isaac Smith handballs towards Duncan who tracks the loose ball at speed," Christian said in an AFL video explaining each decision. "Fox approaches from the opposite direction and attempts to knock the ball forward.
"In doing so, Fox runs past the ball and lowers his body position before contact is made with Duncan. It is the view of the MRO that Duncan's actions were not unreasonable in the circumstances."
Earlier in the season, the MRO had found that Franklin had run past the ball in his collision with Collins, which was ruled to be medium impact. Longmire said at the time that Franklin had braced for contact with Collins after the ball bounced awkwardly, whereas Collins had bent down to chase the ball.
Drawing a similarity between the hit on Fox and Collins, Longmire called for 'consistency' in the MRO's decision making, but accepted that not every contact to the head was going to result in a suspension or even a fine.
"I'll probably step back a little bit. You know we lost Franklin after round one under circumstances in which we thought he was trying to protect himself, and he was suspended … (We'd like) just a little bit of consistency," Longmire said. "But I also understand that not every incident in which players get knocked in the head is going to be suspended, either."
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Franklin's suspension from round one was among three to spark what has become a running debate throughout the 2023 season so far. Melbourne's Kysaiah Pickett earned a two-match ban after cannoning into Bailey Smith, while the Crows unsuccessfully appealed a three-game ban levelled on Shane McAdam.
The three incidents sparked heated debate across the AFL world, with Collingwood great Scott Pendlebury floating the idea of introducing a sin bin in the AFL, as a way of stamping out some of the uglier incidents in the game. AFL 360 co-host Mark Robinson took an even harsher view of the bumps, labelling them "cheap shots" and "cowardly" actions that had no place in the game.
Longmire argued that Franklin was a little unlucky after striking Collins with his shoulder as the Suns defender bent to pick up the ball. "(Franklin's) initial thought was it was a bounce that went the wrong way, and both he and Collins adjusted to that," Longmire explained. "Then he braced for contact rather than bent down."
Along with losing Fox this week, Sydney will also be without midfielder Matt Roberts for at least several weeks with a suspected medial ligament injury. The pair join the likes of Franklin (knee), Paddy McCartin (concussion), Tom McCartin (concussion), Dane Rampe (neck), Joel Amartey (hamstring), Lewis Melican (adductor), Sam Reid (glute), and Sam Wicks (shoulder) on the Swans' injury list.
Franklin, Tom McCartin and Rampe are no guarantees to return this week, while ruckman Tom Hickey might need a second hit-out in the VFL after only recently recovering from a soft tissue injury.
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