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AFL to suspend players for gut, jumper punches

Multiple MRP concerns in fiery term A hot contest at the MCG could see Christian Salem and Ben Cunnington face MRP scrutiny for separate incidents
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 21: Ben Cunnington of the Kangaroos and Bernie Vince of the Demons clash during the 2017 AFL round 09 match between the Melbourne Demons and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on May 21, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Ben Cunnington was fined $1000 for a stomach punch on Bernie Vince
We don't want punching to continue
Simon Lethlean

THE AFL will introduce legislation immediately to give the Match Review Panel the power to suspend players for stomach and jumper punches.

After a spate of incidents across the past few weeks there have been calls for any type of punch to be punished with a suspension.

In the past, players have usually been given a fine for punches deemed low impact.

AFL football operations boss Simon Lethlean told SEN radio it was up to him to give the MRP greater powers to suspend players.

"I think a change is required. Clearly the deterrent of fines is not stopping on-field punching in various forms and we want to stamp that out," he said.

"It's unusual (to make rule changes mid-season), but we're going to. We don't want punching to continue. We're unequivocal about that and we'll make that really clear to the players and clubs.

"We'll make a change that gives the MRP the right equipment in their classification to ensure sanctions are now matches compared to fines.

"Across the past few years, broadly, the MRP done a good job in classifying on-field incidents in the way they've been directed to."

The MRP offered North Melbourne's Ben Cunnington a $1000 fine with an early plea for a stomach punch deemed intentional but of low impact that forced Demon Bernie Vince to double over and dry retch.

Richmond's Trent Cotchin accepted a $1000 fine for a jumper punch judged careless and low impact to the head of Fremantle's Lachie Neale in round eight.

Lethlean said the new rules would see such incidents graded at a higher impact level.

"It's up to me now to re-orient (the MRP) and say, 'Don't worry about what you've done in the last year or so under our direction, here's a new direction and assess it on that', and that's what we'll do,' he said.

"It's a tough role, but they'll make decisions now going forward based on a harsher method and a harsher deterrent and I think that will hopefully stamp (punches) out."