Main content

AFL may king-hit jumper punches: McLachlan

Gut punch, Eagles respond, Rowe's knee Footy Feed with Matt Thompson and Nathan Schmook
Bernie Vince and Ben Cunnington clashed during Sunday's MCG match - ${keywords}
Bernie Vince and Ben Cunnington clashed during Sunday's MCG match
I don't like punching in our game and I don't think it's the look we want. To the extent if our rules don't provide for it, we'll look to change them
Gillon McLachlan

THE AFL could look to change its rules to stamp out the jumper-punching blight on the game, chief executive Gillon McLachlan says.

McLachlan repeatedly declined on Monday to comment on any specific incidents from Sunday's spiteful North Melbourne-Melbourne match at the MCG.

The Match Review Panel is set to closely scrutinise Kangaroos midfielder Ben Cunnington's gut punch to Demon Bernie Vince, which saw him leave the ground and dry retching on the boundary.

Cunnington's teammate Shaun Higgins and Melbourne's Christian Salem were also involved in separate altercations that will be looked at. 

Higgins was a central figure in the opening-half nastiness. There was his jumper-punch stoush with Jack Viney before the opening bounce, then later more of the same that saw Clayton Oliver go to ground.

Salem could be in trouble with the MRP for a crude forearm to the face of Higgins while the Kangaroo was lying on the ground early in the second term.

"I need to be a little careful, I feel, since there will be a number of things potentially in front of the MRP," McLachlan said. 

"I'm happy to make broader comment, but if we're going to have an independent tribunal (I need to respect that) … we'll all have different views on the decisions they make.

"I don't like punching in our game and I don't think it's the look we want. To the extent if our rules don't provide for it, we'll look to change them."

Richmond captain Trent Cotchin escaped with a $1000 fine for a jumper punch on Fremantle's Lachie Neale two weeks ago, and Essendon's David Zaharakis was the only player suspended last year for that action.

North Melbourne coach Brad Scott, speaking after his side's 14-point win on Sunday, said it was up to the umpires – rather than the MRP – to make a stand on jumper punching.

"If you cop a jumper punch, what are you going to do? If that's OK, then I'm going to give you one back and then it just degenerates from there," Scott said.

"I think a free kick is the answer, it's not an MRP issue. A lot of that sort of stuff isn't really for the MRP, because they use level of force as a guide."

McLachlan agreed with Scott's sentiments, saying if umpires saw jumper punching or related incidents they should "if in doubt, pay the free kick". 

For a gut punch to be penalised with a one-match suspension, the MRP needs to grade it as medium impact under the table of offences that former football operations manager Mark Evans revised ahead of the 2015 season.

The MRP generally grades jumper punches as careless acts rather than intentional, resulting in financial sanctions, or insufficient force escaping penalty altogether. 

New MRP member Jimmy Bartel, speaking on RSN on Monday morning, called for a widening of the table of offences to cater for football and non-football acts.