Every time a player who chooses to bump knocks down his opponent, hysteria is unleashed. Switchboards light up and everybody from famous ex-players to cab drivers from Templestowe have their say. The vision is shown over and over on every footy show in the country, sometimes on the mainstream news, slo-mo, regular speed, every available angle. In contrast, players can have legs fractured, jaws broken, hamstrings torn off the bone, careers subsequently stymied or ended from a much more common yet just as negligent act – the shove in the back – without a single cry of foul being raised from the media, or the AFL itself. Remarkably, last week, for the first time there was a blip on the radar when Brent Harvey made a comment about it but I only caught the reference via Twitter and saw no mention on the regular TV footy shows I watch – which isn’t to say it wasn’t followed up somewhere, Sydney isn’t exactly the fulcrum of AFL news. Regardless, here we are again with a promising young player Alex Pearce, suffering a broken leg as a result of a push in the back from Jack Reiwoldt. Reiwoldt uses this tactic regularly but he’s not alone there, Eddy Betts and Cyril Rioli are fellow recidivists. Most of the time they are not penalised and if they get away with it, they get a goal – it’s not a bad risk for them, camp behind the pack and shove your opponent as he leaps. Mind you, they cop the same themselves – Eddy’s recent highlight leap was aided and abetted by Harbrow’s hand on his arse. Of course every team and most players, regardless of their talent will go the shove in the back at some point. But it remains a very, very dangerous, and I have to say it, cowardly, act. Here’s what I had to say about it two years ago in my blog: I’ve edited but you get the gist.
Recent events have highlighted the dark, dangerous action which threatens severe and permanent injury to players. I do not refer to the bump but to that refuge of the desperate, beaten hack, the shove in the back.
Adelaide’s Tom Lynch copped a broken jaw, Nick Riewoldt was KO’d on the field and another champion Chris Judd had his comeback scuppered, all in incidents where they were propelled from behind. In my fifty years of watching footy I have seen many of the worst injuries caused by the shove in the back which is particularly dangerous in a marking contest where a player has left his feet and finds himself catapulted into an elbow or head with no chance of protection. Yet the joke is this cowardly act is rarely even penalised. On the rare occasion where a bold umpire actually upholds the rule and pays the free you can guarantee he’ll be scoffed at as “soft.” There was nothing soft about the injury Judd received, and he wasn’t even paid a free…Riewoldt is shoved in the back and cops a terrible hit to the head so my question is, why isn’t Rowe, the offender cited for reckless or careless conduct? What’s the difference between a player contesting the ball with a bump and causing an unintentional injury, and a player shoving from behind causing the identical injury? The only difference I can see is that the player shoving isn’t even in the contest and has therefore no defence.
The AFL can’t have it both ways. If they are going to protect players from injury by charging players for careless or reckless acts that may be unintentional then players who cause those injuries by a shove in the back, by diving at the feet of a running player or by tripping, are equally culpable.
I followed up this post with two more blog posts reflecting similar issues. My #2 was –
Proving the point I made in my previous post comes news Josh Kennedy has a fractured cheekbone caused by the canon effect of Nic Nat being shoved in the back by Firrito. Nic Nat flew, Firrito chose to stay on the ground and shove in the back. We have serious injuries being caused by this cowardly act and it is time players who choose this action and cause injury face the same consequences as those who do similar via a bump. Riewoldt, Judd, Lynch now Kennedy, who’s next?
And Then in Jun14 –
In answer to my own question posed in the previous blog in my series about the push in the back, the answer as to who would suffer the next serious injury would appear to be Daniel Cross who has suffered a broken leg because of the cowardly and stupid action of his teammate Tom McDonald in shoving Drew Petrie in the back into Cross. Cross will now miss at least four weeks maybe double that. One has to ask why McDonald should not be cited for his reckless act, even if the injured player was his own teammate. This, all against the backdrop of Jaeger O’Meara being checked for shoving Christensen into a collision with Dixon and being let off because Dixon was also shoved in the back by Jared Rivers! Why weren’t they both Rivers and O’Meara found guilty of reckless play and at least given a suspended sentence? As with the bump, the point isn’t whether they meant to hurt somebody but if somebody is hurt as a result of their reckless actions they deserve to pay the penalty.
Subsequent to these we had the incident last year where Michael Johnson of the Dockers was shoved in the back (also in the Perth game against Richmond as it happens) and did such severe damage to his hamstring that he was a write-off for the season. That incident probably cost The Dockers any chance they had of a flag. We also saw Tippet suspended after he was shoved in the back by Chaplin (Richmond again) and his stray arm clipped a Richmond player. This year we have seen Steven May cop a lengthy suspension for an incident that probably would never have happened but for Gary Ablett shoving an opponent forward.
Look, I love a tough, crunching tackle – who can forget Jarryd Roughead’s in the 2014 GF or Big Mummy’s this year? I don’t even mind the bump, after all, if you choose to bump and get it wrong you will pay the price. But I loathe and abhor the shove in the back, the last recourse of the player already beaten in the contest.
The AFL needs to start reporting and rubbing out players for this cancer. Then it will very quickly be halted and we will have more good players on the field to compete as they should.