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Much-maligned AFL match review panel deserves praise for nailing big calls in round 15

On the list of maligned figures in AFL, the match review panel sits somewhere in between James Hird and Jack Watts.
It operates by a long list of convoluted and confusing guidelines, and is tasked with making decisions on split second incidents using often sub-par camera angles, safe in the knowledge its findings are guaranteed to cause outrage for some corner of the AFL landscape.
Sometimes the MRP gets things wrong, and when they do, boy do we hear about it. But sometimes - like last night - they do things just right.
The results of a busy day's work for the MRP came in late on Monday evening, the mere notion that it was taking its time enough for some to start some strangely misguided abuse early.
After all, there were some tough ones to look at - Joel Selwood, Nat Fyfe and Sam Mitchell were all involved in less than straightforward incidents, while deciding just how hard to come down on Taylor Adams was worthy of significant ponder.
To the MRP's credit - something, it's fair to say, it doesn't get often - all of the big cases were thoughtfully, logically and reasonably handled.
Selwood did something untoward, but not something horrifically vicious and, importantly, not to the head. A week's suspension seems just right.
Fyfe belted an opponent in the face, but the contact came just milliseconds after the ball was marked and the affected party played on uninjured. An action worthy of punishment and a potentially costly second strike for the Brownlow favourite, but not suspension.
Mitchell, for the second time, raised a knee while bracing for contact and injured an oncoming opponent. Even if the MRP didn't think it was an intentional ploy as some are suggesting, two identical incidents suggest a habit that needs snuffing out, hence a fine and a warning.
And Adams, whose distasteful knee to Justin Westhoff's head was a clearly unacceptable action, copped a fortnight's suspension. A heavy hit for Adams, but not too extreme given Westhoff was - fortunately - unhurt.
There was more to look at of course, with Ty Vickery and Drew Petrie also copping suspensions, but these were the four cases people were ready to blast the MRP for. One false move and the knives would have been out.
Some say the MRP has no feel for the game, while others take the typical 21st century step of claiming they are destroying everything and nothing will be the same again and the game has gone soft.
With the likes of Brad Sewell, Luke Ball and Nathan Burke on the panel, this is plainly untrue.
The tweaks to the grading system introduced before this season have paid off, but that's not to say some poor decisions haven't slipped through the cracks.
There is still confusion over injuries sustained in tackles. Bryce Gibbs received two weeks for taking Robbie Gray out of a match with a sling tackle, but Jay Schulz avoided punishment for largely the same thing weeks later. One of these calls has to be wrong, and the MRP has since admitted it was the Schulz one.
Elliot Yeo's one-week suspension in round eight was also incorrect, with the MRP seemingly guessing as to the severity of the hit - Jimmy Webster was subbed out of the game later, but had played on after Yeo's hit until he was again struck in the head by a team-mate in a marking contest. If Fyfe got a fine this week, so should have Yeo back then.
And of course, there was the great Swan debate only two weeks ago when both Lance Franklin and Kurt Tippett seemed to be let off a little lightly with one-match bans each. But these qualms were fairly subjective, and tended towards paranoia rather than genuine disagreement.
The MRP is clearly not a flawless system, but it's crazy to expect it could be. What we have seen this year is genuine improvement in common sense and consistency in the punishments handed out.
So shelve the outrage and the all-caps tweets until next round. This is a week where the MRP has got it right, and it's okay to admit it.



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