AFL players must protect themselves: Shiel

Emma Kemp

Greater Western Sydney star Dylan Shiel has defended the bump in AFL, saying players also have a responsibility to protect themselves.

Shiel, controversially forced out of last season's preliminary final after a bump from Richmond captain Trent Cotchin, backed match review officer Michael Christian for letting Ryan Burton's bump on North Melbourne's Shaun Higgins go without penalty.

Christian's decision, while supported by AFL football operations manager Steve Hocking, had polarised opinion and reignited concussion concerns given Higgins was knocked out and needed lip surgery.

But Shiel worried that a suspension for the Hawthorn defender would mean the death of the bump. He stressed the incident must be distinguished from Lindsay Thomas' hit on Geelong midfielder Scott Selwood. The Port Adelaide veteran received a three-week ban.

"I certainly don't want to see the bump extinct in our game - it's a terrific part of the game," Shiel said.

"We play a high-speed, physical sport that people love to watch.

"That Higgins one we saw on the weekend, I'm pretty sure Burton didn't go in with any intent to hurt or hit the head.

"It's important to differentiate that with someone like the Lindsay Thomas (incident), which was just plain reckless.

"It's hard because the public and media expect us players to play on the edge and play like animals but, at the same time, we've got to be very careful about our heads and looking after our opposition."

Shiel volunteered he should have protected himself better from Cotchin's hit last year which went unsanctioned despite the Giants' midfielder failing a concussion test.

"There's an obligation from both players to look after themselves as well as each other - it's a two-way street," Shiel said.

"I can't be expected to go in recklessly - exposing my head - to a contest and, if it gets collected, I point the finger expecting a suspension for the opposition player.

"I've got to have the skills and awareness to protect myself ... these collisions happen.

"What happened last year between Cotch and I, you could argue I could have certainly prevented that by protecting myself a bit more."

Shiel was optimistic any confusion would soon turn into "some clear understanding and explanation of what we can and can't do".

"It's a very hard game to rule.

"I take my hat off to what the umpires are doing and what the AFL have done."