Premiership players and football veterans are at odds over what should be done with Patrick Dangerfield and the bump as the Geelong star prepares for a showdown at the AFL tribunal.
The midfielder has been charged with rough conduct for an incident assessed by match review officer Michael Christian as careless conduct, severe impact and high contact.
Adelaide Crows player Jake Kelly suffered concussion and a broken nose when Dangerfield chose to bump and clashed heads with his former housemate.
Dangerfield is staring down three-plus weeks on the sidelines and the perennial Brownlow Medal contender will be out of the running for the award if he is banned.
But the consequences stretch far beyond after the preventable incident hushed a stadium when Kelly was stretchered off after collapsing to the turf.
Geelong coach Chris Scott claimed Dangerfield, who was over a metre away when Kelly disposed of the ball, was “doing everything he could to protect himself and the other player”.
“Sometimes players run into each other and there’s a head clash,” Scott said.
“I don’t think he intended to headbutt him, that’s for sure.
“It’s the game we play. Two guys running that speed straight at each other, collisions happen.”
Dual premiership player David King disagreed and said permitting such hits flies in the face of the AFL’s moves to protect players from concussion.
He wants the tribunal to use its discretion and suspend Dangerfield for a month in the hope of teaching footballers to avoid bowling into their “defenceless” colleagues.
“The end result is an accidental head clash, but the mechanics of how we got to at point is what we’ve got to change,” he said on Fox Sports.
“Clearly, we haven’t seen that change in behaviour. Everyone needs to go on notice.
“Forget that it’s Patty Dangerfield, it was (Carlton’s Zac) Williams last week. Nothing’s changed. It’s the two or three steps prior that you’re coming in to make contact – that’s what we’ve got to stop.”
King’s co-host Leigh Montagna said the AFL playing group’s response would not be affected by an extra week’s ban for Dangerfield.
The former St Kilda star said players will continue to back themselves in with risky bumps and hope they can pull it off without harm.
“I don’t think Dangerfield next time says ‘I’m not going to charge at a player because I might get four weeks instead of three’,” Montagna said.
“They know it’s a reportable and suspendable offence, they don’t know the outcome depending on how severe the injury is to the player.
“It’s something we’d love to see out of the game, particularly concussion, but we’re always going to have incidents with bumps.”
Port Adelaide premiership player Kane Cornes agreed with Montagna and sided with Scott’s assessment.
“I understand that he will be suspended and I understand why, but I still think there is room for accidents in AFL footy,” he said on SEN radio.
Cornes went on to highlight “more dangerous” accidents that will not draw suspensions, such as flying knees in marking contests leaving opponents concussed.
“That’s alarmist nonsense from you, I’m afraid,” ex-Melbourne captain Garry Lyon responded.
“If Dangerfield was going for the football and the two clashed heads, play on. There will be head knocks in the game. You fly for a mark and your sole intention is the mark, so be it.”
The accidental head clash during a bump has long caused problems for the AFL.
But Essendon great Tim Watson said Dangerfield “doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt” after choosing to bump Kelly.
The AFL has yet to set a time for Dangerfield’s hearing, when he will learn whether he will line up for Geelong against Brisbane, Hawthorn, Melbourne or North Melbourne over the next month.
– with AAP