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'It impacted my career and life': Eagles assistant on sliding rule

Dusty says sorry, as Giant stands by tactics Nat Edwards with all the latest news

JAYMIE Graham still feels squeamish when he sees footage of the horrific incident which ended his football career at age 28.

Playing for South Fremantle in the WAFL in 2011, Graham was bending down to pick up a loose ball when a Subiaco opponent slid into the contest head-first at speed, trapping his planted left leg with nowhere to go.

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Graham suffered a dislocated leg, ACL, PCL and medial ligament ruptures, plus a lateral ligament tear.

The West Coast assistant coach's knee still troubles him today.  

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Graham's incident, and Lindsay Thomas' slide which broke Gary Rohan's leg at the SCG a year later, triggered the introduction of the forceful contact below the knees rule which has stirred furious debate recently.

A controversial free kick paid against Collingwood's Tom Phillips after he dived to retrieve the ball in Saturday night's Grand Final rematch further inflamed the discussion. 

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West Coast small forward Jamie Cripps tumbled over Phillips and received a free kick at a crucial time in the game, prompting Geelong superstar and AFL Players' Association president Patrick Dangerfield to tweet that the rule's interpretation was an "absolute disgrace"

But AFL umpires boss Hayden Kennedy ticked-off the free-kick and Graham, forgetting his West Coast allegiance, agreed with the decision.

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"In the Cripps scenario, if he didn't leave the ground there was potential to do a real serious injury," Graham told AFL.com.au.  

"Like what happened in my case, where my foot was planted, you're stuck between a rock and hard place.

"There's been some senior coaches and some pretty experienced players that have made comments that the rule is poor, and they're poor decisions, and that players play for free kicks and flop. 

"I'm a bit surprised by the commentary around it. They're the rules and I think the umpire made a good decision.

"The onus should be on the players to keep their feet when they attack the ball."

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Graham, who played 37 games for the Eagles before retiring aged 25 for family reasons, has a constant reminder of his injury through his pain.  

But he saw the sickening vision again after friends texted him when it was replayed by Fox Footy's On The Couch program on Monday night to highlight the danger of forceful contact below the knee. 

"You get a bit squeamish and it just reminds you of the pain at the time," Graham said.

"I think it's a great rule that's been brought in. Obviously, it impacted my career and life, really.  

"I'm still struggling with constant pain in my knee. 

"I can live a fairly normal life with the kids. I don't run regularly.

"I haven't been able to run since the incident, really, I can jog around and get quite sore."

 

If there was a silver lining to Graham's injury it was the point during his rehab when he realised playing football again simply wouldn't be an option.

He decided to get into coaching and took a development job at St Kilda before returning to the Eagles, and he now oversees their forward line.

"That's worked out to be a positive for me," Graham said. "Because straight after that I turned my attention towards coaching.

"Things happen for a reason, so it's all good."