In what was a truly great round of AFL football this week, there were a few moments when watching live on TV and during replay games I cringed at some of the ferocious tackles applied.
The most prominent and dangerous tackles are the ones around the upper body and in particular the neck and head. I am not referring to the ‘around the neck’ ‘coat hanger’ or ‘over the shoulder’ free kick type but specifically those in the bottom of the pack at ground level when the ball is either locked in or in dispute.
Two players go down with the ball and their teammates all rush in at high speeds to either extract the ball or hold it in hoping for an umpire’s free kick decision. In some instances there are four to eight players arriving at the scene and diving along the ground knees first to reach the ball. In one incident during the Geelong – Hawthorn clash, I noticed a soccer-like, two feet studs showing, slide into the pack and into an opposition player’s body.
A couple of inches higher and the impact would of been to the head. More and more of these sliding tackles are now creeping into our game and they should be curtailed before a major injury occurs. If this indeed were a soccer game, a red card and the player’s dismissal from the game would have ensued. As it stands the umpire has the option to either award the infringed player a free kick for in the back or around the head, but in most cases the umpires deem it’s either play-on or a ball-up.
I am not saying players are trying to take each other out from these tackles, but in attacking the ball by sliding into or diving on top of an opposition player lying on the ground should not be encouraged as a legitimate tackle or accepted as part of the game. A rule change may be in-line to encourage restraint before someone receives a life threatening injury.