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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Why Michael Christian has got it wrong with the Ryan Burton decision

The AFL’s Match Review Officer Michael Christian has made a grave error in opening the door for players to feel comfortable about bumping instead of tackling.
Christian surprised many people when he took no action against Mark LeCras for the bump which left Gold Coast’s Ben Ainsworth concussed last week. But his decision to clear Ryan Burton for a bump which knocked out Shaun Higgins has set an even bigger precedent around head high contact.
Ainsworth recovered and played against Brisbane on Sunday but there are no guarantees Higgins will do the same this week.
Christian believes players shouldn’t always be held accountable if they elect to bump and a head clash results in an opposition player being injured. He believes a bump which is initially legal but then includes a head clash is not illegal.
But surely there must be a rider on that interpretation which demands players tackle if they have an opportunity to do so.
The LeCras case was line ball. He bumped Ainsworth moments after the umpire had paid a free kick to Alex Sexton and it could be argued that the Eagle braced for contact after the whistle.
But Burton had a clear opportunity to tackle. Higgins was in space and wasn’t in the act of attempting to kick or handball. Burton chose to bump and while he may have done everything possible to avoid injuring Higgins, he still knocked him out.
Burton had another option. He could have tackled.
Concussion is a massive issue in football and in the last week, two players have been concussed because an opposition player elected to bump instead of tackle.
Christian said that he was unlikely to charge players if there were “no foreseeable consequences that heads are going to clash”. The past two weeks show that if you bump instead of tackle, there is a strong chance that an injury could occur. That is now foreseeable.
This interpretation needs to be reconsidered.


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