Former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has expressed concern that the AFL’s high-contact interpretation measures could lead to “a minefield” of serious head injuries to players.
The league sent a reminder to clubs this week to confirm its stance against referees not awarding players who duck, throw or make too much contact on a free kick.
It comes after the debate over the refereeing of Jack Geneva continued last weekend, with the polarizing Magpie coming under fire from opponents in various forms.
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Speaking on channel 9 Leg assigned On Wednesday night, McGuire said he was “really disappointed” and “hugely concerned” about Geneva’s handling of Collingwood’s clash with Adelaide.
“Forget I’m a Collingwood man. all right? “I watched all the games over the weekend and I watched different football games in three different stadiums … you can’t tell me the referees were not completely worried about Geneva,” he said.
“Unlike the AFL, I haven’t heard anything about him being arrested unlike anyone else. I think it’s a red herring that came out this week.
However, Essendon legend Matthew Lloyd believes Geneva will encourage him to find new ways to impact games.
“He is a top quality player, I think players will adapt well. Wouldn’t it be great to see him adapt and find new ways to achieve goals? Three-time Coleman Medalist.
Looking at the bigger picture, McGuire fears he could be putting his players at risk for concussions to the head.
“I’m very concerned that if you think he’s down on his knees, now you have carte blanche and you’ve got a chance to catch him,” McGuire said.
“Is that throwing your head,[where you’re]protecting yourself like a boxer, tucking your head under your shoulders, lowering your body to go for the ball, setting yourself up for a punch?
“I think we’re going to see blokes go, ‘Right, here it is.’ The law that is supposed to stop shaking, in my mind, declares shaking, or at least (directs) dangerous head-throwing people.
“You’re going to go to court and have biomechanists say, ‘He dropped his knee, he did this.’
“I think there’s an old rule in this game – if you hit someone on the head it’s a penalty… I’d like us to go back to the old days where you had under-11s and a referee. He said, ‘If you go for the ball, the ball will protect you and I will protect you as a referee.’
“Now we have all these different ways of[interpreting]: ‘Did he drop his knee? Did he do this?’
“Geez, I tell you what, there’s a minefield here. See what happens next week if someone hits his head, breaks his jaw.
Some AFL coaches have backed the league’s crackdown, with Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge calling it “another piece of crap”, saying players who go hard on the ball “shouldn’t be abused”.
Former St Kilda and Fremantle coach Ross Lyon said it was a complicated matter.
“It’s not binary, it’s not black and white,” Lyons said. Leg assigned.
You’ve heard three coaches back the change, and Luke sometimes goes too fast with the AFL house. But I can understand the concern.”