As was dreaded by all Collingwood supporters and expected by most football fans, on Monday afternoon the Match Review Panel suspended Brodie Grundy for his tackle on North Melbourne’s Ben Brown which rendered the Kangaroo forward unconscious, and saw him spend the night under observation in hospital.
The MRP assessed the tackle as dangerous, grading it as careless conduct with high impact to the head, resulting in a three-match ban reduced to two if Grundy accepts the charge.
Although the three-week suspension was perhaps surprising, as were Brown’s on the night of the incident their hands were tied. After handing out a one game suspension to Patrick Dangerfield last week, and thus ruling him ineligible to win the Brownlow Medal, Grundy’s fate was sealed as soon as Brown’s head hit the ground.
In his post-match media conference when asked by reporters for his thoughts on the tackle, Nathan Buckley referred to it as “perfect”. Unfortunately for Grundy and the Magpies, Buckley was only 95.24 percent correct in his assessment.
Only 95.24 percent, because for 2.1 seconds of the 2.2 seconds the tackle lasted, it was perfect. However, in that last tenth of a second as Brown’s head hit the ground, the tackle went from being perfect to dangerous.
Grundy did as every young footballer has been taught to do for over 100 years – pin your opponent’s arms and drag him to the ground.
The officiating umpire, who was only metres away and with a clear view, agreed with Buckley’s assessment of the tackle and duly awarded a free kick against Brown for dropping the ball.
By the letter of the law however, his ruling was incorrect. But unlike the MRP, who have the advantage of slow motion replays from all manner of different angles and like Grundy himself, the umpire had only a split second to make his decision, and, also like Grundy, technically he got it wrong.
Yet how many other tackles on the weekend were also ‘technically’ dangerous, but did not draw the attention of the MRP?
Indeed, only a few minutes before the Grundy/Brown incident on the other side of the ground, Collingwood had been paid a free kick for a dangerous tackle after one of their players had been flung over the boundary line with his head hitting the ground.
And this was not the only free kick given for a dangerous tackle over Round 20, yet Grundy’s, whose was ruled as perfect by the umpire was the only one be sanctioned. The only reason being because Brown was knocked unconscious.
Now, while the AFL and MRP may deny this, it has proven to be true that the result, rather than the action is what the player is punished for. In a high contact sport with no offside rule, this is a ridiculous state of affairs. Particularly when players found guilty of deliberately striking are given less.
While protecting the players’ head should be of paramount importance, in a game such as AFL football injuries will always occur, and occasionally players will be knocked out in the usual course of a game. And for 117 of 119 years tackles such as Grundy’s have been part and parcel of that game.
What the AFL are asking of the players is impossible. How many decisions can be made and actioned upon in 2.2 seconds? For that’s how long Grundy had to stop his tackle after it started – and had Brown not been rendered unconscious, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.
Of course no-one likes to see players injured or laying prostrate on the ground as medicos carefully attempt to put him on a stretcher. However neither do we want to see the game so watered down it is unrecognisable to that with which we grew up with.