Peter Wright divides AFL world after brutal Harry Cunningham incident against Swans

Cunningham played no further part in the game after the sickening incident.

Essendon's Peter Wright is facing a multi-week suspension over a brutal hit on Sydney Swans star Harry Cunningham during his side's 30-point defeat to the Swans in the AFL on Saturday night. Wright and Cunningham were both contesting a mark but the Bombers star misjudged his run and turned to brace for contact at the last second.

Wright's shoulder caught Cunningham square in the face, knocking out the Swans star and sparking a melee between both teams as irate Sydney players took exception to the hit. The Swans star was taken off the ground on a stretcher and substituted out with concussion, playing no further part in the contest as Wright was booed by the home fans every time he touched the ball.

Pictured left is Essendon player Peter Wright's hit on Swans star Harry Cunningham.
Essendon's Peter Wright caught Swans star Harry Cunningham in the face in an incident that has divided AFL fans. Pic: Getty

The incident divided AFL fans, with some arguing that it wasn't a bump from Wright because he had eyes for the footy and only turned at the last second to brace for contact when he realised he wasn't getting to the footy first. Others argued that under the AFL's new guidelines brought in after last year's Brayden Maynard and Angus Brayshaw incident, that Wright had failed in his duty of care to an opposition player and made reckless and dangerous contact to the head of Cunningham.

AFL greats Cameron Ling and Jack Riewoldt both discussed the incident on Fox Footy and agreed that Wright would likely be sidelined for "several weeks" after the Match Review Officer reviews the incident. “It was a huge hit,” Geelong premiership winner Ling said.

“A huge collision. Straight away everyone on the ground knew Cunningham was in a lot of trouble. I don’t think it’s going to matter if it was a football act and play on the ball. I think with the way everything shifted over the off-season with Brayden Maynard, I don’t think the AFL are going to care if it was a football act or not.

“I think they’re going to put the responsibility onto Peter Wright there and say he turned, bumped and got a player on the head and concussed him. I think he’s going to end up with a big case to answer for." Riewoldt agreed but said he didn't believe there was any intent to bump from Wright.

“It’s a bit of an unfortunate one for Peter Wright. [He had his] eyes on the ball and all of a sudden something is coming out of his peripherals and he braces for contact.

“The AFL we know, these sort of aerial contests where there is head-high contact, have changed the way they look at these, obviously off the Maynard-Brayshaw incident in last year’s finals. I think he’s going to be in trouble.” Most fans agreed with the AFL greats but others argued Wright also had a right to protect himself in the collision.

AFL fans debate Peter Wright hit on Harry Cunningham

Essendon coach Brad Scott defends physical approach

Essendon coach Brad Scott threw his support behind Wright after the game and defended his side's physical approach to the contest. "I'm not going to talk about the incident but the only thing I can say is Peter Wright is a well-known ball player - always has been, since he was a kid," Scott said.


Scott spoke before the game about wanting his players to show a combative 'Essendon edge' and said it was necessary if they were to blunt Sydney's weapons. "Sydney have dominated the last few weeks and they've got a lot of players who are very slick and good with the ball in hand," he said.

"Their ball movement is very solid at the moment. If we just sat back and watched them do that, it was going to be a long, difficult night. We needed to combat that with some physicality in the contest."

Seen here, Swans star Harry Cunningham comes from the field against Essendon.
Swans star Harry Cunningham played no further part in the match after being concussed by a hit from Essendon's Peter Wright. Pic: Getty

But Swans star Tom Papley suggested the Bombers crossed the line in their plan to get physical with Sydney after lashing out at Scott's men after the game. “You can be tough and do all that stuff, but you’ve still got to be able to play four quarters,” Papley said.

“They were hitting us behind the play and things like that. They’re trying to do that stuff and I don’t know if it’s them or not. Brad Scott came out and said it’s the Essendon way, but... anyway I won’t go into it. You can pretend to be tough, but you’ve still got to win the ball and win the game. It’s all a facade I think, but anyway.”

with AAP

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