Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has called for AFL players to do more to protect each other after a string of head-high tackles and concussions have rocked the sport. This week the AFL issued a memo to clubs clarifying its position on dangerous tackles.
This follows two high-profile cases with Essendon skipper Zach Merrett and Collingwood vice-captain Taylor Adams both serving suspensions after dangerous tackles. And Hardwick says players, coaches and umpires could all do more to reduce the risk of injury.
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"It is a bit of a grey area at certain stages," he told reporters on Saturday. "Some of those things have been cleared up ... it's like a bigger conversation needs to be had.
"There's a combination of factors that we need to sit down and figure out. The players absolutely have got a responsibility to look after the head when they tackle, but there's other factors at play.
"The players absolutely have got a responsibility to look after the head when they tackle, but there's other factors at play.
"One, coaching for us. Also, the administration from the AFL with regards to holding the whistle needs to be a little bit clarified. We don't want players getting hurt but we want to make sure we understand the players have got a really, really tough job to do."
Both Merrett and Adams will miss the traditional Anzac Day blockbuster through dangerous-tackle bans. Melbourne's Kysaiah Pickett and Adelaide's Shane McAdam have both been hit with two and three week bans, respectively, after bumps that went wrong.
Merrett, who had emerged as a Brownlow Medal outsider thanks to Essendon's sensational start to the season, failed to overturn his ban after tribunal chair Jeff Gleeson found had had not acted 'reasonably' in the tackle to prevent a potential head injury. The Bombers star had argued the tackled should have been graded as low impact rather than medium, as well as fighting the rough conduct charge.
He was unsuccessful on both counts, as was Adams, prompting AFL icon Gerard Healy to ponder whether the AFL was losing its way. Port Adelaide's Tom Jonas could also be in trouble after collecting Jai Culley high, which could have been a result of a head clash.
Chris Fagan defends players in tackle debate
Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan said he understood the AFL's desire to reduce the risk of injury but remained sympathetic to the tackler, particularly when a larger player comes up against someone smaller.
"How could our players not be aware? It's been the case for quite a few years, the AFL is clamping down on dangerous tackles," Fagan said on Friday, adding that most dangerous tackles are not intended to be that way.
"It's really difficult to coach the players not to tackle with vigour ... you've got to do that with an element of aggression," he said.
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