Geelong Cats champion Jimmy Bartel has added to calls for the AFL to tweak its rules around Brownlow Medal eligibility after Zach Merrett was ruled out after copping a one-game ban. The Essendon player failed to overturn a one-game suspension at the AFL tribunal last week and is therefore ineligible to win the Brownlow.
Merrett and Collingwood vice-captain Taylor Adams both fell foul of a league crackdown of dangerous tackles, with both missing the traditional Anzac Day blockbuster on Tuesday. But according to Bartel, there's no way players who get short suspensions for 'football acts' should potentially miss out on the Brownlow.
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" This is back to the discussion we've had a lot (about) football and non-football acts," Bartel said on 'Footy Classified' on Wednesday night. "I'm a believer that that should be the first column you have on the MRO (match review officer) framework because then you can elevate the tummy punches and the punching. That's not part of our game.
"It allows a bit of leniency for accidents that do happen in the game. We call it the fabric of the game - we want to see some tackling, some physicality.
"If you do get suspended for a football act , up to a week, you should still be eligible for the Brownlow. If you get a week, it's actually costing you your chance of winning the Brownlow anyway."
According to Gerard Healy, who won the Brownlow in 1988, the Brownlow eligibility should be relaxed even further. Healy said he thinks suspensions for less than three weeks shouldn't cost players the prestigious gong.
"I think it would be a disgrace if Zach Merrett lost a potential Brownlow Medal for a tackle gone wrong," he said on SEN radio last week. "It's not a dirty game anymore, there's very few punches thrown. Anything two weeks or under you can still win the Brownlow Medal."
Damien Hardwick wants more clarity on dangerous tackles
Speaking last week, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick called for a "bigger conversation" and more clarity from the AFL about what constitutes a dangerous tackle. Hardwick says players, coaches and umpires could all do more to reduce the risk of injury.
"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.
"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."
Brisbane coach Chris Fagan said he understands where the AFL is coming from. "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," he said last Friday.
"It's really difficult to coach the players not to tackle with vigour ... you've got to do that with an element of aggression."
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