Steve Johnson (foreground) makes his ill-fated contact. Photo: Channel Seven
IT'S the system that nailed Steve Johnson. Once the match review panel watched the videotape of him laying a block on Dan Hannebery at Geelong last Saturday and decided it was a reportable offence, he was in trouble.
That's because Johnson's record included a tripping incident against Richmond in round four this year (adding 78 points to his base penalty), and the loading from a three-match suspension for whacking Steven Baker, of St Kilda, in 2010. We all remember that incident, when Baker goaded him and their tete-a-tete ended as it was always going to end, with Johnson snapping.
Once Johnson was assessed at a 240-point misdemeanour, Geelong had nowhere to go. Had the Cats chosen to challenge the panel's finding at the tribunal, they risked losing him for not just one but two finals (assuming Geelong goes through this week). It was a risk it was not prepared to take and it accepted the one-match ban yesterday.
Had it not been for the loading and the carry-over points, he would have been assessed at 120 demerit points, pleaded not guilty for a 25 per cent discount, and walked away with a reprimand.
That's the system and it is worth noting that the incomparable Stevie J has some recent history in the area of body-checking. He did it to Chris Newman in the Richmond game and escaped.
Johnson, in his new role as a permanent midfielder, has been pushing the boundaries with his body-checking, as the Hannebery incident shows. He went a fraction too far, and he picked on an unsuspecting player. But that's where logic gets thrown out, in my view.
But the system never needed to be used. Surely the Johnson bump on Hannebery, silly and unnecessary as it was, does not constitute a reportable offence in a rugged game like Australian football. Surely a free kick to Hannebery, who was winded but suffered no lasting injury, solves the problem and metes out the necessary sanction on Johnson.
It is such a contradiction to think that a little shoulder into the sternum of an approaching player, intended as a block for that player's opponent, can draw a suspension from a final when there is so much more overtly dangerous conduct going on around it.
I love watching Stevie J play. He is unique with his all-seeing awareness on the field, and loveable in the fact that he messes things up sometimes, too. Now he won't be there against Fremantle on Saturday, and I'm wondering if we have a Nanny state.
Here's my question. Is it actually good for footy that he's watching a final from the stands? The answer is pretty obvious.