Footy crackdown a ‘recipe for disaster’
PORT Adelaide great Kane Cornes has blasted a proposed crackdown on any hint of foul play in 2019, saying officials should be encouraged to intervene less, not more.
Umpires will be instructed to be on the lookout for gut punches and niggling tactics off the ball after the AFL Commission met this week, where it approved a range of tweaks to the match review and tribunal systems for 2019.
Players who use their studs when contesting a mark will be under more scrutiny while the bump is back on the endangered species list.
Cornes said the heightened focus on minor incidents will only frustrate fans more because the whistleblowers will be heard too often.
"I could not believe when I read about umpires being urged to pay more free kicks," Cornes said.
"The AFL are urging umpires to pay more free kicks during the 2019 season and it is an absolute recipe for disaster.
"If in doubt, don't pay more free kicks, pay less. Put your whistle away."
Cornes said fines being dished out for punches that aren't serious enough to earn a suspension is "crazy stuff" and he's upset umpires will have a greater opportunity to overshadow the players on the ground.
"The last thing some of our attention-seeking umpires need is more power to pay free kicks," Cornes said.
"Our game has always been at its absolute best when those in control let the play go. It always results in a much more enthralling and physical contest.
"This is absolutely the wrong call from the AFL."
The bump made a comeback last season in the first year under new match review officer Michael Christian but the AFL approved a recommendation to enforce strict liability for forceful head clashes where a player elects to bump an opponent.
In the most notable example of the league's relaxed approach to bumping in 2018, Hawthorn's Ryan Burton escaped without sanction for a bone-jarring block on North Melbourne's Shaun Higgins.
The Roos star was heavily concussed in the incident and required cosmetic surgery after a tooth pierced his lip.
"I think it's really important to understand that he took reasonable care to execute the bump fairly," Christian said at the time.
"He couldn't reasonably foresee that there was going to be an accidental clash of heads.
"It was unfortunate for Higgins, but I just want to emphasise that when we're assessing incidents we look at the conduct first and foremost."
Burton, now with Port Adelaide, would have been in the wrong and faced a suspension under the new interpretation.
In what could be seen as the "Toby Greene rule", the league will also crack down on players who use their studs in marking contests or general play.
The GWS forward escaped sanction but sparked furious debate with his kung-fu style approach to a marking contest with Nic Newman during the Sydney derby against the Swans.
Similar actions will result in free kicks or even fines and suspensions depending on the severity of the impact from next season.
The AFL has also vowed to crack down on niggling acts off the ball, be stricter on fining players for incidental careless umpire contact and added stomping and eye gouging to the list of offences that are referred directly to the tribunal.