The scandal that has erupted around AFL executive Ali Fahour’s on-field punch that resulted in him being banned from football for life has sharpened the focus on the AFL’s attitude to on field violence.
Most contact sports have some form of “send off system” for on-field misdemeanours. Usually it’s a yellow or red card, awarded by the referee. That means that the player is sent off and the team plays one man down.
Just last weekend super star Sonny Bill Williams became only the third ever All Black to be sent off during a test match when he was given was a red card for a shoulder charge. Most commentators agree that this was one of the factors in the All Blacks’ defeat allowing the British Lions to draw level 1-1 in the test series.
William has received a four week suspension will miss the third test and may well be looking at the end of his test career.
So the red card system is serious business.
It is surprising that the VFL and now the AFL has never had such a system. There is no immediate punishment for serious acts of brutality on the field. Not until the Tribunal meets in the week after the match.
In a game like Aussie Rules, playing one man down would be a massive disadvantage and a huge incentive for coaches and players alike to stamp out on field violence.
It will be interesting to see what arguments are raised for not having a send-off rule.