Howe decision a bad joke
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.
Collingwood’s Jeremy Howe was penalised after this hanger over Tom McDonald.