Yes, it was a harsh outcome for an act which was accidental. Yes, such an incident only 12 months ago was ignored by the same panel. And yes, Fyfe emerged equally as sore as the man with whom he collided, Gold Coast’s Michael Rischitelli.
The MRP was right to say Fyfe’s conduct was negligent, the impact medium, the contact high.
Bye bye Brownlow?
In the rules as they are intended to be interpreted, in deciding to bump Rischitelli in the third quarter of the match at Patersons Stadium, Fyfe relinquished any right to innocence the moment forceful contact was made with his opponent’s head.
From an MRP perspective, disregard the fact that Fyfe was also left bloodied, and that his intent was to bump Rischitelli, not use his own head to make head-high contact.
So, it is fair that Fyfe will be sidelined while Fremantle plays Hawthorn on Friday night and Essendon on April 13.
The AFL has rightly moved with the times in determining that such acts on a football field need to be discouraged in the strongest ways. It actually wanted to send that message last year, but its MRP set it back, and caused mass confusion in the process, when it allowed Lindsay Thomas to escape for his head-on-head hit on Ben Reid in round one last year.
But while it is right that Fyfe was suspended, it is wrong that he is ineligible for the Brownlow Medal for such an action.
The AFL needs to urgently review the matter of Brownlow eligibility as a result of the change in interpretation of incidents such as the Fyfe-Rischitelli clash.
When the Brownlow Medal was instituted in 1924, criteria was simply that it would be awarded (via umpires’ votes) to each season’s "fairest and best" player.
There have been periods of VFL/AFL where players have had to maim an opponent in order to receive a suspension.
There have been periods of the VFL mostly, and even in the early stages of the AFL, where brutality was not only celebrated, but encouraged and promoted.
They were different times. They were times when players received nothing for knocking opponents out cold.
It was just part of the game, just as now part of the game sees a player suspended for accidental use of his own head in hurting an opponent.
Eligibility for the Brownlow has been slightly tinkered with over the journey, and the points system attached to the MRP’s findings have complicated matters since 2005.
But there has never been a proper AFL-commission endorsed review of what it means, these days, to be the "fairest and best" player in the AFL.
Gary Ablett, Scott Pendlebury and Joel Selwood – and their fans - may disagree with this, but everything about Fyfe in the past season and two matches suggests he is on the way to becoming the best player in the competition.
Unfortunately, under rules which reflect standards demanded of footballers in 1924 and not 2014, Fyfe cannot win the 2014 Brownlow Medal for he is now considered a player who is "not fair".
And that is unfair.