HomeSportIt’s absurd: Robbo on the gut punch debacle

It’s absurd: Robbo on the gut punch debacle


“I don’t like punching in our game and I don’t think it’s the look we want,” McLachlan said.“To the extent if our rules don’t provide for it, we’ll look to change them.”There’s been a tinker here and there, about careless and reckless conduct, and medium and low impact — and the potential to cause injury — but the irrefutable fact remains, a player can punch another player and not be suspended.It’s absurd.Stream every match of every round of the 2022 Toyota AFL Premiership Season Live & Ad-Break Free In-Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >On Saturday, Essendon ruckman Sam Draper ran in from behind and threw a round-arm punch to the stomach of Geelong’s Esava Ratugolea.Ratugolea was a sitting duck — not looking, body open, eyes on the ball — and Draper tried to make him a wounded duck. For that, he was fined by the Match Review Officer.On the same day, Brisbane’s Mitch Robinson was suspended for an accident that unfolded in less than a second.Draper’s hit was calculated. Robinson’s hit was an accidentIn what could be a landmark decision, the Lions have appealed the Robinson decision.The Lions’ case will centre on where the contact was made and how Robinson was aware of his duty of care towards Xavier Duursma and instead of contesting the ball, he chose to brace for contact.In other words, Robinson made the decision to not go forward and contest the ball with Duursma because if he did it would have almost certainly resulted in a head clashThe front-on contact is a growing debate in the game.Fox Footy’s Dermott Brereton argued Robinson did not connect with Duursma’s head, but Fox Footy’s David King described the hit as being a “millimetre away from being a snapped spine”.Channel 7 commentator Wayne Carey said: “It’s a tricky one that one. He (Robinson) protects himself, he goes in sideways, you’re allowed to do that. Also, you’ve got to look after yourself and leading with your head like that is not ideal.”AFLW Carlton coach and radio commentator Daniel Harford believes the AFL has a major problem.He said Robinson made the right decision, yet was being penalised.“If you’re leading with your head, you’re putting yourself in jeopardy and it makes it really difficult bordering on impossible for the player to protect themselves without the fear of sanction or hurting the opponent,” Harford said.“I don’t know what Mitch Robinson is supposed to do — not contest the ball?“The onus has to be on the player contesting the ball in the right manner.”Duursma, who escaped serious injury in the collision, was bent over trying to control the ball when he ran into Robinson.It’s understood the AFL believed Robinson leaned forward to meet Duursma.“If we continue to put the head into the position where your bum should be, then everyone’s in trouble,” Harford told the Herald Sun.“If Robinson instead drove though Duursma it probably would’ve meant head contact. He can’t win. “I don’t know what Robinson is supposed to do, so we have got a major issue in the game.“It’s been a major issue for a decade when the head became sacrosanct. It’s a big problem.”It’s understood the Lions were confused about the penalties for Robinson and Draper when one of the incidents was intentional.Draper might try to argue he didn’t throw a punch and instead attempted to spoil with a fist, but if that was his defence, he’s the AFL’s newest gags man.Draper began throwing his fist when Ratugolea had his arms over his head in a bid gather the ball.The Bombers big man nailed him, so much so, Ratugolea had to retreat to the bench to recover.Draper was fined $3000, reduced to $2000 with an early plea, which he accepted. The ruling was careless conduct, medium impact and body contact.Careless? The MRO gave Draper too much benefit of the doubt.If the AFL is concerned about punches — as they say they are — and the horrible example it sends to community-level footy, Draper should have been suspended.No excuses. No second chances.If you send a player from the field because you purposefully punch him in the guts, or head, or chest, that player should sit out for a week.As for the Robinson case, we all witnessed what happened, but let’s hope the tribunal members can tell us exactly what Robinson should have done instead.

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