THE AFL has a staging problem that is making umpires' job harder, according to North Melbourne coach Brad Scott.
The Kangaroos breathed a sigh of relief when star primemover Ben Cunnington escaped with a $2000 fine for his off-the-ball strike to Fremantle defender Nathan Wilson on Sunday.
Scott didn't specifically link that incident to his comments regarding players staging for free kicks, but made clear he thought it was a legitimate League-wide issue in round one.
"I thought across round one a number of players went down like they'd been hit by a Mack truck, when there was very minimal contact," the 10th-year coach said on Thursday.
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"It puts the umpires in a really difficult position, where they've been told to pay free kicks for any strikes off the ball, but there are a number of players who go down (too easily).
"You watch footy and when you're at a forward-50 stoppage and you feel contact, if players continually get rewarded a shot at goal for minimal contact, then they're going to keep doing it.
"It all adds up to making umpires' jobs really difficult. But our end of the bargain is simple – don't punch anyone."
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The AFL's strong pre-season stance that free kicks would be paid at a minimum and suspensions handed out for forceful punches has, in some circles, been contradicted by Match Review Officer Michael Christian's decision-making since.
Scott understood Christian's dilemma with the way the Tribunal guidelines were structured, but predicted there would be a slight adjustment in how these incidents were graded.
"The challenging thing for the Match Review Officer is that they're intentional and to the body, so they're the first two components, then the next thing to grade is impact," he said.
"When there's not a significant injury, how do you grade it as anything other than low?
"What we expect – we haven't had any warning of this – but our players are on notice that we will find that those incidents will now start to be graded as medium, so that will result in a week."