THE farcical scenario on Monday in which Will Minson and his five-year good record escaped with a one-match suspension for stomping became frankly disturbing last night when the Bulldogs ruckman was cleared to play this weekend.
However eloquent his evidence - and it must have been well received - anyone who watched the giant ruckman stamping his feet on the leg of grounded Swan Kieren Jack would at least question Minson's well-argued claim his act was accidental. Frankly, it seems closer to unbelievable but even if you accept Minson's word as the tribunal did last night, then the unescapable conclusion is that the penalty for stomping of any kind, deliberate or otherwise, is woefully inadequate. Simply, if everything that has taken place under the game's judicial system since Minson attacked Jack at Etihad Stadium on Sunday can be deemed within the rules, then the rules are wrong.
And our understanding is that the Minson incident could prove one stomp too many in terms of the AFL and its penalty-points system. That a player can stand over a prone opponent he has forced to the ground and attack him so brutally and not receive more than a two-match ban should be of grave concern to the game's governing body.
Steven Baker admitted with no shame on Fox Footy on Monday night that he used to sharpen his stops before games. Surely there is a point where sport ends and violence begins? And this is not just about the look or image of Australian rules.
Brett Ratten summed up how damaging and multi-layered the effect of these decisions can be when Josh Hunt was fined the paltry amount of $1350 when he stood on Eddie Betts' hand back in round 11.
''The decisions that are made, they go right down to grassroots footy,'' Ratten said. ''Are these the things that we want to see when we go and watch our kids play footy?'' Match Review Panel chairman Mark Fraser argued that Hunt was standing, not stomping but that's not how it looked.
At the end of last season, Carlton's Aaron Joseph was fined $900 for doing something similar to Stephen Milne. So that's three times in less than a season where a stomping action has not resulted in a suspension. Minson would have received one match for his horrible act but was only reprimanded because of his clean sheet - at least in the eyes of the MRP and the tribunal.
AFL football boss Adrian Anderson was careful not to question the softening of the penalty last night delivered by tribunal trio Wayne Schimmelbusch, Wayne Henwood and Stewart Loewe. But he conceded that two incidents in one season was ''unusual''.
''We acknowledge it's not a good look for the game,'' said Anderson last night, ''and when we review the tribunal as we do at the end of every season we'll look at the penalty points and whether they're adequate in these circumstances.''
It is beside the point, although extremely fortunate, that Jack was not seriously injured.
In this case it also seems irrelevant to consider the modern football penalty system which rewards good behaviour.
Two matches was simply not enough for deliberate stomping and one match a pathetic punishment for reckless stomping.
In Minson's case, he had to have his punishment reduced due to his good record. Sometimes it seems far more sensible to judge a man for what he has done on the day.
And if Minson went home relieved last night then he should be even more disappointed in himself.
Caroline Wilson has been chief football writer for The Age since 1999. She was the first woman to cover Australian Rules football on a full-time basis and the first woman to win the AFL's gold media award. She has won the AFL Players' Association's football writer of the year (1999) and the AFL Media Association's most outstanding football writer and most outstanding feature writer (2000, 2003, 2005). In 2014 she won the Melbourne Press Club's Graham Perkin award as Australian journalist of the year. She also won a MPC Quill Award in 2003.
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