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Accidents can happen

Date

Martin Blake

COMMENT

SCOTT Thompson was innocent and rightly was cleared by the AFL's match review panel yesterday.

Thompson, Adelaide's top-shelf midfielder, ran into Steve Johnson at Geelong on Saturday and Johnson suffered concussion. But it was an accident caused as much by Johnson running quickly away from the football in that idiosyncratic ''Stevie J'' way, and Thompson not expecting him to be there in his path.

The Crows' player was watching the football and merely braced at the instant he realised the pair were about to collide, saving himself from a broken face. Johnson was not so lucky; not seeing Thompson, he did not protect himself. His injury was unfortunate, but nobody's fault.

In reprieving Thompson, the match review panel at least will assuage the public in their view that virtually all head-high contact seems to be punished; that no accidents are allowed any more.

Plainly, after this incident and the Beau Waters-Kurt Tippett collision the week before when Waters was cleared, the panel has acknowledged that blame does not need to be apportioned whenever a player is hurt, even in an era when the AFL is hellbent on reducing head injuries.

But the sticking point is the Jack Ziebell case a fortnight ago. In the moments after the Thompson verdict became public, fans began bombarding social media websites making the comparison - Thompson cleared, Ziebell four matches.

It is becoming a Monday ritual. The panel brings down its findings, based on the ticking of boxes under Adrian Anderson's system of sanctioning players; the fan forums and twitter.com begin whirring.

Many of the people who weigh into the debate have only seen the television news grabs of incidents that never reveal more than a second or so of a clash, often from the most sensational angle. Hardly any of them understand Anderson's set-penalty system. The combination of those two things is a firestorm.

In jest, I recently suggested to an AFL official that the league sell tickets to the panel's findings on Mondays and open the MCG for the job. It would be a sell-out, I said. But in truth it gets a little wearing.

For what it's worth, Ziebell was a bit unlucky. He was going for the football and took another player out; the panel decided he had other options. It is the options that are most important with this system and, in leaping at a ball he could not mark (it was handballed in his direction), Ziebell put himself at risk.

Thompson's is a different case. His options were zero. He did not choose to bump Johnson. They ran into each other. Pretty simple if you put it that way. So let's get on with the game.

7 comments

  • And this is different to Carlisle a couple weeks back how? Sure, he only got a reprimand, but now he's no chance for the rising star (long shot, sure, but still) and he has enough carry over points that next time an accident happens he's gone for two weeks.

    Thomson didn't deserve to go, but neither did plenty of other players who have gone.

    Commenter
    Zebba
    Date and time
    July 31, 2012, 8:16AM
    • Accidental or not, Thompson's elbow was raised and made contact with Johnson's face.
      I thought the AFL rules stipulated that the elbow must be tucked in when bumping, but then again and AFL and it's MRP are consistently PARADOXICAL. Worth a couple a weeks I would have thought, but that might have upset the "Brownlow Punters"

      Commenter
      Rob S
      Location
      Hampton
      Date and time
      July 31, 2012, 8:29AM
      • That's the whole point of this story - Thompson wasn't bumping Johnson. He didn't see him until just before impact and raised his arm to protect his face, an instinctive reaction.

        Commenter
        Ross
        Date and time
        July 31, 2012, 10:50AM
    • Sticking point is how Wellingham got 3 ( high contact, no eyes on ball, had option to not contact, intent ) and Ziebell got 4 ( eyes on ball, no intent to take player out, incidental high contact ). No brainer that there will be debate when this type of verdict is compared.

      Commenter
      Observer
      Location
      Wagga Wagga
      Date and time
      July 31, 2012, 8:39AM
      • Wellingham got 5 weeks and had that discounted by 2 for a guilty plea and clean record for past 5 years. Ziebell got 3 weeks but as he challenged it and was found guilty copped the 4 weeks. Ziebell was very unlucky though and his suspension is a blight on the game.

        Commenter
        Lonnie Boy
        Location
        Tasmania
        Date and time
        July 31, 2012, 8:58AM
    • The Lindsay Thomas decision this week is laughable! He was running towards the ball, the Melbourne player changed directions and ran into Thomas and came off second best yet the MRP in their wisdom decide to suspend Thomas.

      The whole MRP/tribunal system has become a disgusting joke.

      Commenter
      The Shadow
      Location
      Margaritaville
      Date and time
      July 31, 2012, 10:11AM
      • Thompson got off purely because he's a Brownlow favourite in a team considered a premiership contender. The MRP is a joke - guaranteed that if the situation had been reversed, Johnson probably would have been hit with a hefty suspension. Intentional or not, Thompson still raised his elbow to Johnson's face, and the head-high contact resulted in concussion. Thompson should have gone, but it definitely appears as though there exists one rule for some, and one rule for others.

        Commenter
        blu
        Location
        Geelong
        Date and time
        July 31, 2012, 11:38AM
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