Geelong champion Jimmy Bartel has stridently defended himself against accusations of exaggerating contact with Hawthorn opponent Matthew Suckling last Saturday night, labelling the perception that he dived to win a free kick "a load of rubbish."
Bartel floated forward after what appeared to be slight contact from Suckling during an aerial contest involving Suckling and fellow Hawk Jordan Lewis midway through the second quarter of the match at the MCG.
After landing on all fours, Bartel was awarded a free kick and subsequently goaled. He was then subjected to raucous boos from Hawthorn fans, and has endured a week of condemnation for what was widely perceived as a dive.
The 2007 Brownlow Medalist was adamant that his intention was never to deceive the umpire, decrying what he felt was criticism of his character.
"I think it's a load of rubbish to be honest. If you're running flat out for the ball and you're jumping and you've got someone who puts any sort of contact behind you you're going to go forward," Bartel told radio SEN on Thursday morning.
"I'm not sure what people wanted me to do, maybe flip my legs out and land on my back?"
"At no stage did I actually think for a free kick. I just got perfect timing... even Suckling fell over doing it.
"I just put my hands down actually to brace myself for a fall. Probably in hindsight I shouldn't do that, I should just fall on my back or something like that."
Bartel was not cited by the match review panel for the incident. The MRP tends only to charge players with staging if they fall without any contact being made.
The 30-year-old suggested that while he did not mind the jeers, he was affronted by the criticism he has received this week in the media. Bartel's former Cats teammate Cameron Ling said on Channel Seven during the game that Bartel was "well and truly acting," but later argued that he should not be "hung" for the offence.
"It sort of questions a bit of your integrity, the way you play the game. I feel over my career I feel I've played the game hard and fair and within the rules," Bartel said of the backlash.
"It's pretty disappointing. I've played a lot of footy and people think straight away what I was doing was playing for a free kick.
"I can see it looks bad, but I can only tell you how I was feeling in the moment.
"I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do, how I'm supposed to contort my body backwards and mark it.
"Probably the fact I kicked a goal out of it made everyone more upset and I can understand that."
The 269-game veteran indicated he was not losing any sleep about the criticism, but he would continue to defend himself if challenged about the incident.
He did so at the start of his interview on SEN when former Hawk great and media pundit Dermott Brereton facetiously asked Bartel to rate the degree of difficulty for the dive.
"I've moved on and put it to bed, but if someone asks me what I thought about it, I'm going to say what I think. I always have."