Patrick Dangerfield is now ineligible for the Brownlow Medal.
The “fairest” aspect of “best and fairest” rules out last year’s winner from what could have been back to back medals.
The question is not whether Dangerfield should’ve been suspended for his tackle, but whether he should now be ineligible for the medal.
The rule is black and white. If you are charged by the MRP with a sanction that sees you miss a game of footy, you are out of contention for the award.
The incident that will put a little red cross next to Dangerfield’s name on Brownlow night was a tackle that saw Carlton ruckman Matthew Kreuzer concussed.
Kreuzer didn’t return to the game after the tackle and is in doubt to face the Bombers this weekend.
Dangerfield tackled Kreuzer after he’d disposed of the ball and as a result of his tackle, the ruckman will miss a period of time with a concussion.
Dangerous tackle suspensions feel distinct from other charges as tackles are perfectly legal and even one’s that result in suspension are usually fine if not for a bit of bad luck. It’s not like a player choosing to take the risk of bumping or throwing a strike in that regard.
This incident falls into the most common occurrence of dangerous tackle suspensions too. The situation where a player’s arms are pinned and as a result, they hit the ground unprotected and get hurt.
These are a little greyer as there’s no malicious intent, but the onus is on the tackler to make sure the other player can protect themselves, even though in the heat of the moment, the tackler is just trying to win the ball.
Dangerfield’s falls into this category, but there’s also an element of bad luck.
The midfielder didn’t see Kreuzer dispose of the ball. He brings him down thinking the ruckman still has it in his possession. This is evident by Dangerfield appealing for holding the ball immediately after releasing him and it happens regularly in footy.
Dangerfield has Kreuzer’s left arm pinned initially and is trying to bring the far larger player to ground. Obviously, the Carlton big man doesn’t exactly want to be thrown into the turf and is trying to keep his feet.
The combination of the struggle and the pinned arm results in Kreuzer’s shoulder and head hitting the ground at the same time.
Under all of the precedents set by the Match Review Panel, Dangerfield needed to miss a week, and he will.
That is not up for debate and good on the MRP for making the right call under their guidelines.
The question is whether Dangerfield should be ineligible to be crowned the year’s best player because of what was clearly an accident.
It’s not like Dangerfield opted to bump or threw a punch, he just laid a strong tackle that went awry.
What he did wasn’t unfair or even unreasonable at the time. If you put 100 players in that exact position, you’d assume most would lay a similar tackle.
It’s just bad luck that Kreuzer got hurt and unfortunately that means Dangerfield gets two weeks down to one with an early plea.
The incident was graded as “careless” and that was the correct grading. Maybe the answer is allowing those who get a careless grading to remain in Brownlow contention.
Tim Membrey received three weeks down to two in round 16 for throwing a forearm into Dylan Grimes’ face in a marking contest and that also received a “careless” grading.
No matter how you look at the Membrey incident, there’s no getting around the fact an act like that should rule a player out of the Brownlow, as it’s clearly in the “unfair” category. But that doesn’t mean we have to abandon the case for allowing carelessness to be a way out of player’s becoming ineligible.
Simply add that if a player is charged with striking, which Membrey was, then that automatically rules you out of the award.
However, doing all of this complicates what is currently one of the few black and white aspects of AFL football.
These extra layers create loopholes and you could present 100 incidents for and against making the changes.
You just know if these changes are made, some incident will pop up that seems to defy the original intention and everything will be thrown out of whack.
While it feels wrong that Dangerfield is now ineligible, there’s no way around it without muddying up the MRP and let’s face it, the MRP does not need any more hoops to jump through.
In this instance, just leave the game alone.