Main content

Who's protecting Buddy's head?

Freo skipper sanctioned for strike Nathan Schmook and Matt Thompson review the round 11 MRP incidents
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 13: Lance Franklin of the Swans wrestles with Michael Firrito of the Kangaroos during the 2015 AFL round eleven match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the Sydney Swans at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on June 13, 2015. (Photo by Michael Dodge/AFL Media)
Lance Franklin and Michael Firrito tangle during the round 11 clash at Etihad

NO ONE protected Buddy Franklin's head on Saturday night.
 
Not North Melbourne defender Michael Firrito - who punched it while attempting to spoil in an action the revamped Match Review Panel described as 'careless'.
 
Not the umpire - who missed the chance to award the 50-metre penalty that should have been paid.
 
And not, it can be argued, the MRP - that awarded Firrito a $2500 fine which became a $1500 fine with an early plea.
 
In isolation, Firrito was lucky not to cop a week for his action. He is even luckier when you consider it's the second time this season he has been fined for striking.
 
But the wily defender plays it hard and gives as good as he gets. Good luck to him.
 
Under the revamped system he is now liable to an automatic week's suspension for another 'low level' offence because he received a fine for striking Brisbane Lion Allen Christensen in round two.
 
That was considered enough deterrent … until he found himself in trouble nine weeks later with this latest incident.

Under old-fashioned football lore, Firrito was merely making a forward earn his kick. That's all well and good unless you copped the fist in the back of the head.
 
But it was a bad look for the game and went against the notion that the head needs to be protected, one used to justify the Steven May suspension.
 
Is a hit to the back of the head OK?
 
You wonder how a forward would go if he copped one of those hits from each of the opposition's defenders prepared to pay the $1500?
 
It's likely that a $1500 fine is not welcome in the Firrito household and will deter him to some extent.
 
But will it deter a defender next week, or the week after, from doing the same thing as Firrito? Unlikely.
 
Then consider this: what if the recipient of the blow to the head was a player who has copped a few knocks to the head during his career, such as Franklin's teammate Kurt Tippett.
 
In those circumstances you'd imagine the condemnation of an old-fashioned footy action that makes a forward earn the mark would be loud.
 
But Buddy's used to it and has a hard head so the offender is given a slap over the wrist.
 
The fines system has been rightly lauded because minor incidents are not causing players to miss games.
 
The debate has focused on the major incidents and the game has not become any rougher as a result.
 
But the system must protect the ball player so that players in the future risk more than Firrito did on Saturday night when his attempted spoil missed the football by a long way.


The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs