Howe de­ci­sion a bad joke

The West Australian - - DUFF - Mark Duffield EMAIL [email protected] TWIT­TER @MarkDuffie­ld1

The AFL must move im­me­di­ately to make it clear to um­pires that the type of con­tact Jeremy Howe made with Tom McDon­ald in the Queen’s Birth­day clash on Mon­day is still a mark and not a free kick.

It should do so be­cause the guide­lines it sent to its own um­pires in­di­cated that it could be paid as a free kick.

When the league’s head of foot­ball op­er­a­tions Steve Hock­ing launched a raft of rule changes on the pub­lic last year, in­clud­ing the 6-6-6 start­ing po­si­tions, the changes in the 50m penalty rule, lim­i­ta­tions on run­ners and changes to kick-in rules, it is fair to say the league was pleased with its own work and in­dulged in a bit of chest beat­ing.

“We have lis­tened to our fans, play­ers, coaches, um­pires and clubs,” Hock­ing said at the time.

“The rule changes and in­ter­pre­ta­tions pro­tect and re­spect the tra­di­tions of Aus­tralian Foot­ball while pro­gress­ing our game. We all want more of what makes our game great — free-flow­ing pas­sages of play, one-on-one con­tests and play­ers hav­ing space to play on in­stinct.

“These changes are about giv­ing play­ers the best chance to play the best game and giv­ing the fans more of what they love.”

One of the rule shifts barely com­mented on at that point was what has be­come known as the Toby Greene or “studs-up” rule. In the AFL’s rules of the game, it is rule 17.7.2 (d) and pro­hibits the “use of boot studs in a man­ner likely to cause in­jury”.

We need to be clear that the free kick paid on Mon­day was not the fault of young um­pire Alex Whet­ton, who blew the whis­tle. It is the fault of the AFL for its own murky guide­lines around the in­tro­duc­tion of the rule.

The rule was specif­i­cally in­tro­duced be­cause of a num­ber of in­ci­dents in­volv­ing Greene, most no­tably when the Greater West­ern Syd­ney star put his foot high into the bod­ies of then West­ern Bull­dog Luke Dahlhaus and Syd­ney de­fender Nic New­man as they were run­ning front on at him in mark­ing con­tests.

The in­ten­tion of the rule should never have been to stop Howe do­ing what he did on Mon­day, and does do reg­u­larly in games — us­ing his foot to fur­ther el­e­vate him­self in a mark­ing con­test when an op­po­nent is not fac­ing him. If the league is to be true to Hock­ing’s word — that its rule changes in­tro­duced last year were about en­hanc­ing the game and keep­ing what makes the game great in place, it will move quickly to clear this up.

If not, then we have just iden­ti­fied yet an­other cloud of bull­dust that has come out of AFL House. Hope­fully the rain this week will dampen that.

The AFL tries to be as pre­scrip­tive as pos­si­ble with its rule changes — to make what is a very dif­fi­cult job for um­pires a lit­tle eas­ier.

But se­ri­ously folks, it is tougher to spot the dif­fer­ence be­tween tele­vi­sion’s Judge Judy and Judge Juddy, who went down the slide into the ice on The Big Freeze on Mon­day than it is to tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween what Howe did and what Greene was do­ing last year.

Any um­pire who can’t spot that dif­fer­ence doesn’t be­long on an AFL field.

All they need is a proper set of guide­lines put in front of them.

As we un­der­stand it, that is what um­pires don’t cur­rently have when it comes to this rule.

One of their best, Brett Rose­bury, posted ex­am­ples of what um­pires had been told were free kicks on so­cial me­dia.

One of them, in­volv­ing West Coast’s Josh Kennedy, looked very sim­i­lar to what Howe did against Mel­bourne.

This not only flies in the face of Hock­ing’s claim that we are en­hanc­ing what is great about the game, it is also bereft of com­mon­sense.

While Greene’s mar­tial arts style fend-offs were a “bad look” the re­al­ity is that knees used in mark­ing con­tests are far more likely to cause in­jury.

Pro­vided the at­tempts of the player us­ing the knee to take the mark are gen­uine and not aimed at caus­ing in­jury, we ac­cept any in­jury caused as a gen­uine ac­ci­dent.

Come on AFL. Ad­mit you got some­thing wrong and make this right be­fore it gets more em­bar­rass­ing.

... we have just iden­ti­fied yet an­other cloud of bull­dust that has come out of AFL House.

Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

Collingwoo­d’s Jeremy Howe was pe­nalised af­ter this hanger over Tom McDon­ald.

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