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Selwood ruling misses the mark

Joel Selwood leads his team out.

Joel Selwood leads his team out. Photo: Getty Images

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 over-sensitivity 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 by-play 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 him 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 still was placed in a no-win situation had it decided to challenge the ruling at the tribunal, the risk that their captain and arguably most important player missed Friday night's crucial match against St Kilda.

As it is, with his carry-over 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 of 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 get to his feet and get 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, and after having been attended by a trainer but trying to stay on the field, was bumped by Brisbane 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 gratuitously bumping Carlton's Ed Curnow, clutching his shoulder and in obvious pain.

The obvious 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 Damien 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?


  • I think it is a joke that Joel has been cited; however in this day and age of "Duty of Care", if the result of his actions lead to an injury or even worsening an injury, then under worksafe laws, the AFL would be liable. It is as simple as that.

    Bayswater WA
    Date and time
    August 14, 2012, 12:32PM
    • Then if that is the case no one should touch anyone on the footy field at any time ... in case it might lead to injury

      Date and time
      August 14, 2012, 12:43PM
    • I agree with you Steve in that it was just brotherly love, but this article is clearly biased toward an opinion and anyone who actually saw the incident could clearly see that Adam was indeed injured and not right. We've also seen guys suffer massive head knocks, broken ribs from a collision and get to their knees in pain, so just because he's not lying down unconcious doesnt mean he's not seriously hurt enough... Had he not been so clearly injured this wouldnt have been looked at, but because Scott had no idea how severe his brothers injuries were the AFL have to pull him up for workplace safety duty of care or face being sued by injured players or fined by the worksafe commission.

      Date and time
      August 14, 2012, 1:11PM
    • Joel chose to kick a man when he was down. He got punished for it. Simple. As for all you people saying that this is "soft" - whats more soft than shoving a man who's vulnerable, down on all fours and possibly injured? Stop talking like tough men. The act was gutless.

      A Hard Man
      Date and time
      August 14, 2012, 1:49PM
    • Im just amazed that after feeling bodily contact of any kind that Scott didnt dive onto the ground clenching his head in apparent pain....

      Date and time
      August 14, 2012, 2:22PM
    • Cath you should read the article again, it was Joel & Adam, not Scott. This would have to be the worst decision I've ever seen, the AFL should have overturned the finding by the MRP

      Date and time
      August 14, 2012, 2:46PM
    • What hysteria!
      There have been some shocking decisions by the MRP this year. Ziebell's is about the worst that I can think of, but I think they got it right this time. At the end of the day, he's not missing a game despite a bad record, he's still eligible for the Brownlow, and the message going forward is clear. Don't interfere with a potentially injured player off the ball.
      The way you're all going on, it's as though shoving a man when he's down is one of football's hallowed traditions? It's never been a part of the game, and they're right to stamp down on it. What happens in the AFL has a habit of creeping into junior leagues...

      Date and time
      August 14, 2012, 3:38PM
    • @hardman

      Act was gutless !? haha he pushed him ! Not much of a hard man

      Selwood would never have done that to any other opponent. The panel is a joke

      Date and time
      August 14, 2012, 4:49PM
    • who cares, the game has been destroyed, don't anyone show passion for that would be a week on the sidelines.

      pommie farmer
      Date and time
      August 14, 2012, 8:52PM
    • I think its a joke that Johnson wasn't cited! That's the real issue here. And I've never seen umpires in WA before giving the away team everything in an attempt to get them over the line. Chris Scott is also a joke, and its a joke how easily the media are deflected away from the real issues by him. At least he is smart enough to recognize how gullible and easily led by the nose that the media are!

      Date and time
      August 14, 2012, 11:06PM

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