The AFL world has erupted over two incidents from Saturday night's games which are sure to test the league just days after a class action lawsuit over concussion was launched by more than 60 former players. Melbourne's Kysaiah Pickett and Sydney's Buddy Franklin will both come under scrutiny after nasty hits - however both were fortunate that neither of their opponents were ruled out for the match.
The first incident came during the Demons' big win over the Bulldogs, with Pickett's ugly-looking hit on Bailey Smith sparking a melee in the first quarter. Pickett was reported for his hit on Smith, which came after the Bulldogs star had kicked the ball.
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Pickett jumped off two feet and cannoned into Smith's chin, a bruising hit which will almost certainly see him sidelined - but the length of any potential ban became a major talking point. Smith was rattled but otherwise fine, a stoke of luck for Pickett.
Match review officer Michael Christian's grading of the incident will be crucial, with the AFL giving the MRO the capability to increase the grading of an incident based on the potential to cause injury, rather than purely on the outcome. Fox Sports commentators and former AFL players Brad Johnson and Cameron Mooney were divided, with Johnson pushing for the incident to be graded by the MRO rather than be referred to the tribunal.
“The outcome for Bailey is OK, but when you look at the impact … this could be classified as low impact. But 1cm to the right, he could be knocked out," Johnson observed. We obviously don’t know that, but ultimately what he’s done is jumped off the ground, leant forward, got him under the chin with a bit of his back — that’s the bit for me is impact and what we classify as low, medium and high.
“The outcome has a part to play in that, so if that’s classified as ‘low’ because Bailey sits up and plays out the quarter, I’m not sure that sits too well with me. The action is no good, but the outcome is OK, so that’s where it gets lost a little bit for me.”
Mooney was more critical, arguing the game has to be 'played out', despite agreeing Pickett was 'lucky' that Smith didn't appear to suffer any ill-effects. He said it would be unwise to make decisions based on what 'could've been'.
Pickett has been put on report for this late hit on Bailey Smith.
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— Fox Footy (@FOXFOOTY) March 18, 2023
I think if he just bumped him contesting the ball it might be 1...2 max, given he didn't contest the ball I think he gets 3 because Smith got up straight away, maybe 4 depending if the AFL want to send a message about concussion risk.
— Mark Robinson (@mrobinson73) March 18, 2023
Needs an extended holiday. Awful act
— ScomoCchio 🇦🇺 🇬🇧 🇺🇸 (@ScomoCchio) March 18, 2023
In the week concussion is very topical, Picket a very clear report and should get weeks despite not appearing to injure Smith #AFLDeesDogs
— Matt Head (@MattHead16_) March 18, 2023
If that isn’t 2 weeks min the AFL deserve to be sued for every penny they have in all the upcoming lawsuits
— Sir Lamingtons (@Rabid_Lamington) March 18, 2023
Buddy Franklin facing scrutiny over Sam Collins hit against Suns
Swans veteran Buddy Franklin will also have to explain himself to the MRO after his hit on Gold Coast's Sam Collins, which saw him brace as he ran past the ball and collect Collins with a bump to the head. No free kick was paid in the moment for the high contact, with Franklin actually getting a whistle and shot on goal in the moments after.
While Mooney had been more circumspect about Pickett's hit, he was unequivocal about where he thought Franklin's bump would land him. “He’s got a holiday,” Mooney said.
— AFL (@AFL) March 18, 2023
“What he’s going to get we’re not sure yet, but when you hit somebody with your arm and you really go through the ball and make that contact to the head, he’s going to have a holiday. That’s not a good look at all. We want to protect the head at all costs.”
Johnson was in agreement, but said the similarities and differences between the two incidents would be a crucial test for the MRO. He said the Pickett bump 'looked worse' but since Collins went off the ground for a concussion test, it was difficult to predict the outcome.
“This is a good talking point because you’ve got a guy who keeps his feet on the ground. Yes he bumps and then Collins goes off and could be out completely under the concussion rule. Whereas you’ve got Kozzy Pickett who launches himself off the ground, hits hard but Bailey Smith stays on," he said.
“Which action looks worse? For me the Pickett action looked a lot worse than Buddy’s but we still can’t have Buddy’s action in the game either. So it’s going to turn into a pretty important discussion, it has to.”
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