Scott Pendlebury calls for major AFL change as Mitch Robinson cops backlash

The topic of head-high bumps plagued the opening round of the AFL season.

Scott Pendlebury and Mitch Robinson, pictured here in the AFL.
Scott Pendlebury and Mitch Robinson don't exactly see eye-to-eye on the issue of bumps in the AFL. Image: Getty

Scott Pendlebury has called on the AFL to eradicate unnecessary head-high bumps from the game by punishing players based on the action rather than the outcome. The opening round of the 2023 season was plagued by three ugly incidents in which players collected rivals in the head while attempting to bump.

Sydney talisman Lance Franklin and Melbourne livewire Kysaiah Pickett have accepted one and two-match bans respectively for their hits on Sam Collins and Bailey Smith, while Adelaide Crows forward Shane McAdam could find himself in even more trouble. McAdam flattened GWS player Jacob Wehr with a sickening high shot on Sunday and is sure to come under scrutiny from the match review officer.

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Speaking about the Pickett incident in particular, in which the Melbourne forward leapt into the air and made contact with Smith's head, Pendlebury questioned whether the ban was only two weeks because Smith had avoided injury. Wehr and Collins were both assessed for concussions and cleared to return to the field, while Smith got straight to his feet and kept playing.

"Ours is all outcome-based," Pendlebury told Triple M radio on Monday. "I think for years there's been the question around 'are we going to punish the outcome or the action and where do we live?' And we still live in the outcome, punishing the outcome. Which rightly or wrongly, I don't agree with that.

"I think it should be the action that gets punished. They're not football actions. (When you launch at someone like Pickett did), your intention's to hurt. It's not a football action.

"I'm talking for everyone in the game here, not about those instances but I think it's something that we need to get rid of out of our game. But this chat's been going on for five or six years ... Those non-football actions I think we really need to treat seriously and get out of our game."

Kysaiah Pickett, pictured here collecting Bailey Smith high with a brutal bump.
Kysaiah Pickett collected Bailey Smith high with a brutal bump. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

The three incidents come at a time when concussion is a hot topic in professional sport, with the AFL facing a class action from former players and the NRL recently introducing a mandatory 11-day stand-down period for concussed players. Pendlebury said he would be in favour of the AFL introducing a sin-bin for on-field misconduct.

"Ten years ago, Buddy wouldn't even get looked at for that, but now that's a week because we're so keen to protect the head," Pendlebury said. "I think we've got to take that approach to everything.

"... The MRO, I don't know if it's a better system or a better way of looking at things, (need to) make sure we stamp it out. I don't know if we're getting it right at the moment."

Mitch Robinson taken to task over tweet about bumps

Former Brisbane Lions player Mitch Robinson sparked backlash on Sunday when he said the McAdam incident was simply a part of AFL. “I don’t care what anyone says, that’s just a part of footy I bloody love,” he tweeted.

“Take that out of the game and it’s just who is the most talented. The tackle is already on its way out.”

One Twitter user responded: “Early nomination for worst tweet of the year. It’s 2023 mate. Get with the times. This was not okay.”

Another commented: “Past players are dying because of CTE and Mitch Robinson thinks it’s sensible to tweet this," while a third wrote: “This tweet might make its way into that concussion lawsuit, I reckon. Insane take."

with AAP

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