Patrick Dangerfield can no longer win the Brownlow Medal.
His tackle on Carlton's Matthew Kreuzer was deemed dangerous enough to be suspended for a week by the AFL Match Review Panel. In handing down their decision, the MRP also ensured heated debate about the state of the game and the rules that dictate eligibility for the Brownlow Medal, the AFL's most prestigious individual award.
There's more than a few out there that reckon the game is off its head. They can't believe there was anything wrong with the Dangerfield tackle. To them it was a hard, tough tackle that was fair and legal. They're annoyed Dangerfield's missing a week and spitting chips that he can no longer win the Brownlow.
After all, surely that tackle doesn't make Dangerfield an 'unfair' player, therefore how is he no longer able to win an award based on being the 'fairest' and best?
However, as with many furious debates in the hot bed of the AFL, we can't see the forest for the trees.
The bigger issue is the head. It's no secret that the AFL sees the head as sacrosanct. It must be protected at all costs. New rules have been introduced to ensure concussions are minimised and new procedures are now followed to ensure those have been concussed are treated seriously.
This is a result of significant research from around the world highlighting the dangers of concussion for athletes that last well after their playing days and indeed worsen as times goes by.
Just last week, a new report by Boston University found 100 of 111 brains of former NFL players tested positive for the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE. In short, that means more than 99 percent of those tested had some form of degenerative brain injury.
While our game is not the NFL, the AFL is no stranger to concussion and head injuries. Importantly, the effects of these injuries don't just impact their playing careers, they impact their lives and relationships.
And so it is that the AFL has become increasingly aware of the dangers of contact to the head. You can no longer bump a player's head and, as we've learned throughout the year, you can't pin a player's arms to their body while tackling them to the ground.
Many fans don't like it. Indeed many of us, at all levels of the sport, were taught to tackle hard with the intention of making it very difficult for our opponent to get up quickly.
But times have changed. If the head needs protecting, then the question is simple. If you pin a player's arms while falling head first to the ground, how can they protect their head?
And before people get all hot under the collar about the game going soft, they should go and ask a current player just how hard the game is. The average current day player is bigger than ever, heavier than ever and stronger than ever. The game is still has hard and tough as it's ever been.
The AFL, like most contact sports, wants to be the first choice for kids who want to play sport. But if there's too many injuries, if the risk of suffering a head injury is too great, you can bet your bottom dollar their parents will steer them towards other sports.
Many bemoan the current state of the game, proclaiming its gone soft. Others are confused with the rules and don't know where it's all headed.
But the reality is all very simple. The head and brain are sacrosanct. And that's not soft or confusing. It's smart.Suggest a correction