Last week, the bump had a near-death experience. Now its vital signs are being monitored again as six players digest the match review panel's verdicts on their bumps. Expect more wailing and gnashing of broken teeth.
But what is being mourned, exactly? The bump was never intended to be the near-lethal weapon it has become. In instruction manuals going way back when, it was taught as a shoulder-to-shoulder, hip-to-hip skill. It still is. ''Make contact with the shoulder and upper arm,'' says a contemporary handbook, ''preferably when an opponent is settled on one foot, so he is easier to unbalance.''
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Roughead and Chapman accept sanctions
Hawthorn's Jarryd Roughead and Essendon's Paul Chapman have accepted their one-match sanctions handed down by the Match Review Panel.
As such, the bump is a test of strength. If one player is bigger, or moving faster, or generally is nastier, it becomes a test of courage. It was never meant to be a test of bone density.
Of course, bumping didn't and doesn't always go to plan. Unscrupulous players bumped not necessarily to win the ball, but to hurt. The shirtfront - a front-on bump to an unaware or unprotected player - became a dubious feature of the game. Dermott Brereton on Paul Vander Haar in 1989 springs to my mind; others will come to yours.
The shirtfront wasn't always punished, because the rules were looser and the game was less policed. To an extent, the shirtfront was celebrated, and unconscious players on stretchers made for ghoulish weekly spectacles. Now, it is abhorred. The feeble-minded who cry that football is turning into netball mostly mean that as in netball, it is no longer considered good sport in football to iron out an opponent whose only mistake is to try to get the ball.
Byron Pickett drew down the curtain on that era. Pickett was a good enough player to win a Norm Smith medal in 2004, but also infamous for his shirtfronts and their painful consequences. The rule was changed. Other incidents led to more refinement: Nick Maxwell v Patrick McGinnity in 2009 (suspension overturned at appeal, on a technicality) and Lindsay Thomas on Ben Reid last year.
Finely argued, this tightening only brought the rules into line with the spirit. The purpose of the laws of the Australian football specify only two intentions, to ensure that the game is played in a fair and sporting manner, and to prevent injuries, ''so far as this objective can reasonably be achieved in circumstances where Australian football is body contact sport''.
The laws are explicit in several places about the paramountcy of insurance against injury. The "spirit and intention" of law 15, concerning the awarding of free kicks, has as one of its express intentions protection from injuries. In context, it is not enough to say that accidents happen and injuries are inevitable; the very laws of the game rail against it. Injuries from bumps gone awry might not be the most common in the game, but they are the most horrifying.
Gratuitous violence largely has been eradicated from football. But fitter, stronger players, running longer and hitting harder, still can and do wreak much incidental havoc. The AFL knows this; it is partly why it has moved to slow and tire players on the ground. Not until now has it moved to deligitimise the bump in all except the safest circumstances.
As noted previously, in the Jack Viney incident, whether or not he could have avoided contact with Tom Lynch, it is improbable that he would have. It is a football instinct, natural to him, trained in others, to make or absorb contact. It is the game moving in them, not them trying to shape the game.
Players say they are now confused. They will adapt; that is how species survive. Jarryd Roughead's felling of Ben McGlynn was the most and least understandable of the weekend's indictments. Roughead authentically tried to hip-and-shoulder. But he should know by now that McGlynn is shorter than him, and that they would never meet as equals.
That is one bump you suspect Roughead will not lay again. Incidentally, note how that was the Roughead bump, not the McGlynn. It was the Viney bump, not the Lynch, though Lynch will feel a part of it, gingerly, for longer than Viney. It is always so. But if the bump was contemplated from the victim's point of view and not exclusively the perpetrator's, the conversation might have a different tone.
The bump as we knew it might be dying. But to some extent, we have always sentimentalised it anyway. Compared with the high mark among the elements of the game, it was a rogue, and not so loveable as some of its rascally authors would have you believe. No flowers by request at the requiem, please.