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No punch line in big brother joke

OF ALL the reactions of shock and disbelief which followed the AFL match review panel's decision to reprimand Geelong captain Joel Selwood for a post-contact push on his West Coast brother Adam last Friday night, it was Richmond coach Damien Hardwick who probably summed it up best.

"They're taking the piss, surely," he offered on SEN. "Can I say that?" Well, probably not in the current climate, Damien. Indeed, so image-conscious does the AFL judiciary appear to have become that not only a fine, but a community service order might be on the cards. Because oversensitivity seems to be the order of the day. Well, on some incidents, anyway. Not so much others.

When the brothers Selwood collided at Subiaco, the byplay which followed, Joel's subsequent push of Adam as both picked themselves up from the turf, attracted more amusement than any concern, and some quips along the lines of both being sent to their bedrooms by their parents.

It's fair to say the MRP didn't see the humour. They deemed the retaliation reckless, slapped Joel with an 80-point penalty, inflated to 112 due to a bad record, a guilty plea reducing the penalty to a reprimand and 84 carry-over points.

Selwood is still in contention for the Brownlow Medal, as the base penalty was under 100 points, but Geelong was still placed in a no-win situation had it decided to challenge the ruling at the tribunal, the risk that its captain and arguably most important player might miss Friday night's crucial match against St Kilda.

As it is, with his points, Selwood goes into that game, the remaining two home-and-away clashes, and a whole finals series, on a knife's edge in terms of potential suspension for the most trivial of incidents.

That's a joke. As was this ruling, in a year that's becoming marked by baffling adjudications regularly contradicting each other, and a fair share subsequently contradicted by the tribunal.

MRP chairman Mark Fraser, in explaining the decision, said: "If it was any other player than his brother you wouldn't have any issues with it [Joel being charged], but because it's the brothers, it makes a bit of a difference to the way people view it."

Rubbish. This would have attracted the same level of head-scratching had it been Joe Bloggs and not Selwood's older brother, as it's yet another example of in disciplinary terms, cracking a walnut with a sledgehammer.

Fraser said the elder Selwood could have had a neck or rib injury. "We don't believe he has intentionally pushed an injured player, but he should know that with that collision that there's the potential for an injury to be there."

A few points here. This was a push in the side barely strong enough to topple Adam Selwood over, one clearly with no malice. It followed a hefty bump delivered by the Eagle, an annoyed Joel making the point that he was up and about again first.

Most importantly, it came within a second of the initial contact, with feelings running high. Was Joel supposed to conduct a thorough medical examination on his sibling, whom surely he would be the least likely to want to hurt unnecessarily, before deciding how to react?

Joel ended up with a sizeable bump on the head from the contact his brother initiated, incidentally. High contact? Reckless? If he'd stayed down rather than typically getting to his feet and getting on with it, could it indeed have been Adam getting reported and not him?

The AFL has been sensitive to the issue of treatment of already injured players since the infamous Nick Riewoldt incident in 2005, when the St Kilda captain, having hurt his right shoulder, was bumped by Brisbane Lions pair Mal Michael and Chris Scott.

Neither Lion was sanctioned, but subsequent cases have been, St Kilda's Leigh Montagna last year earning a similar reprimand to Selwood (but becoming a one-game suspension because of carry-over points) after bumping Carlton's Ed Curnow, who was clutching his shoulder and in obvious pain.

The difference is both those previous incidents came a good 20-30 seconds after a player had been clearly injured, and well behind the play. Joel Selwood's contact was instantaneous after an act in play, a push, not a bump, and to a player who was up on his knees and pretty clearly not seriously hurt.

It's nowhere near on the same scale as the other two examples. And there's that old consistency issue again.

Fremantle star Matthew Pavlich, like Selwood, got a reprimand last week. He'd swung a backhander at West Coast opponent Mitch Brown, at least 30 metres off the play, which left the Eagle defender dazed.

Unnecessary. Behind play. And with more consequences. Yet both he and Selwood's actions were deemed reckless conduct and low impact. Watch the videos. It's safe to say you'd rather have been Adam copping a little push than Brown copping one to the head.

The Jack Ziebell suspension a month ago challenged the fundamental principle of players pursuing the ball. The Selwood ruling might well, given what penalties now hang over the Geelong skipper's head, compromise the way one of the most courageous and watchable players in the game goes about his business at the most important time of the year.

More than that, though, it's a decision which challenges another football fundamental. Passion. Ours is a game executed at a high tempo and with regular, inevitable body contact. Of course that's going to inspire high emotions.

Adam Selwood's bump on his brother was fine. So was Joel's reaction, which merely said: "You'll have to do better than that, big brother."

And Hardwick's astonished reaction to it all was fine, too. How else do you respond to yet another ruling which seems to spit in the face of the very elements of the game we've been brought up to treasure?


  • After being a passionate and one eyed lover of my club and our game for close to 40 years, its time to pull the curtain down on my life as a footy fan. Yep, thats right- Andrew, Adrian and your cronies, youve finally succeeded in forcing me out of the game that I love. It all came to a head on Friday night when I had the thought "I dont understand the game!" It was kind of liberating, a release, a moment of clarity, letting go of the concept that I understand the game, that I know the rules. Now I wont have to yell at the TV, or hide the remote so I cant throw it at the screen. The biggest relief- I can stop trying to make up reasonable and understandable excuses to the kids as to "What was that free kick for dad?" or "What does incorrect disposal mean dad?" And yes, I am taking this personally Andrew- Ive been loving and watching this game alot longer than youve been running it, and youve left me gobsmacked one too many times. Im finally walking away. The 2 best decisions Ive made this year- 1 Quit Smoking and 2 Quit Footy. Both are as addictive and bad for your heapth as the other!!

    Date and time
    August 15, 2012, 8:11AM
    • Absolutely agree. The game of Australian Rules Football is dead to me now. We are watching an entirely different sport, that should be given a new name.

      right here
      Date and time
      August 15, 2012, 9:45AM
    • I am with you bemused-I rarely even watch a game on TV - might watch a quarter or so if interesting- but raffertys rules, rules.

      Date and time
      August 15, 2012, 4:09PM
  • I applaud the MRP. Adam Selwood could have had a potentially serious injury after that collision. Should Adam Selwood risk paraplegia or something similar because his brother wants to give him a shove. So many injuries in contact sport come from rather 'innocuous' contacts. There is no need for such displays of Joel Selwood's 'bravado'.

    manly nsw
    Date and time
    August 15, 2012, 8:13AM
    • If poor little Adam Selwood was injured, then it was his own bloody fault. Did you miss the part where Adam instigated the clash by slamming into his brother and trying to take him out? Joel's action in response to that hit was child's play by comparison.

      Date and time
      August 15, 2012, 8:44AM
    • It is irrelevant that Adam tried to take him out prior to this incident. There is no place in this game, or life in general, for retaliation. It is the umpire's job. If players spent their time looking for retaliation after a perceived injustice the game would descend into anarchy.

      Date and time
      August 15, 2012, 9:27AM
    • If you think the MRP was justified in handing Selwood a penalty for this "brotherly push" I think you should start following lawn bowls. The only reckless action here is the AFL, who have put Selwood's immediate playing future on the line. He'll only have to sneeze now, to get rubbed out.

      Rob S
      Date and time
      August 15, 2012, 9:44AM
    • Paraplegia from a gentle push to the side? Are you serious?

      right here
      Date and time
      August 15, 2012, 9:46AM
    • That's complete rubbish Wyndham, Adam Selwood was clearly not seriously injured and the gentle shove was no chance of causing any damage or injury. The AFL have said through this ruling that after every contest players involved must be treated as injured players until it's conclusively known that they are uninjured.

      Date and time
      August 15, 2012, 9:55AM
    • Spot on Rohan. I think you've echoed the thoughts of 99% of true football supporters - regardless of their affiliation. In the light of the MRP's ruling against Joel Selwood for making "unnecessary or unreasonable contact with an injured player"; why was WCE's Brennan not cited for his intentional bumping of Motlop in the same game? Motlop was clearly under duress from an earlier collision and holding his arm up to relieve pain in his shoulder. Brennan obviously saw this and began to bump into his shoulder and attack his arm behind the play.
      The MRP is an absolute lottery, bereft of any consistence and logic!

      Basso Divor
      Date and time
      August 15, 2012, 11:34AM

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