Passing Bull 350 – Protecting footballers

The start of the AFL season coincided with the commencement of new civil claims brought by former players seeking compensation for injuries suffered while they were playing – and three high profile suspensions for dangerous play. 

The word ‘bump’ is silly in this context.  At least one suspension came from a shoulder charge when a player launched himself into a human missile with both feet off the ground.  Anyone who doubts how serious the issue is has not read the appalling stories of illness and distress of former players often leading to suicide.

In all the talk, I have not heard it suggested that the AFL think of adopting the rules of rugby on tackling.  According to the version in front of me, those rules include the following:

10.4 (g) Dangerous charging.  A player must not charge or knock down an opponent carrying the ball without trying to grasp that player.

The referee could call ‘low arms’ or ‘no arms’.  (This was not the case in NRL, until recently, I think.)  Additionally, there are general prohibitions on tackling someone without the ball, in the air, or late, or dangerously. 

Any of these is red card territory – off for the match, with no replacement.  Mid-air collisions are viewed very strictly.  ‘Foul play’ includes ‘unfair play’ or anything ‘against the spirit and letter of the Laws of the Game.’  (Lawyers will see a comparison with Equity.)

In other words, rugby is a game of playing football for ordinary decent people.  Requiring a tackler to make the ball central to the tackle is obviously central to that proposition.

The AFL then has a dilemma.  If it goes that way, will it follow rugby when they ban tackling above the waste?  But if they don’t tighten up on safety, they are even more exposed legally for not adopting safeguards used elsewhere.  And in a code that is played around the world and followed by many more millions than is the case with the AFL.

The AFL can’t pussyfoot any longer.  Just ask the man who took the Mark of the Century whether he would not give back every cent of $1,400,000 if he could get his life back, or what was going through the mind of Danny ‘Spud’ Frawley when he drove his car into a tree.

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