I'm not normally one to leap to the defence of a Collingwood footballer, but Nick Maxwell's four game suspension for his hit on young Eagle Patrick McGinnity has far more extenuating conequences than merely meaning that the new Magpie skipper could miss the opening weeks of the AFL premiership season. If footballers weren't already treading water when laying a decent shepherd, they certainly will now.
Yes, a broken jaw resulted from the clash, and of course we wish McGinnity a speedy recovery, but has the sentence handed down by the AFL Tribunal effectively outlawed the hip and shoulder from our great game? From the vision it's hard to say whether the high contact was caused from a clash of heads or the top of the shoulder, but Maxwell's feet did not leave the ground, the ball was within 5 metres and no elbow, or any part of the arm, was raised upon impact. One must wonder whether any sanction would've been handed down if the West Coast youngster had walked away with nothing more than a groggy head, and continued playing.
The AFL Rules Committee have already taken the contest out of footy. The unpopular 'hands in the back' rule and free kicks given for a defender hitting the arms of an opponent in a marking duel have robbed defenders of two tricks of the trade that the great backmen from the past employed. How would Stephen Silvagni have coped if he played today? He made an artform of scragging and stifling the games greatest forwards with shrewd use of his body and all the defensive guile that you'd expect from the full-back of the century. AFL fans like myself are bemoaning the sanitisation of our football. You watch a tape or a DVD of a match played from the mid-90s and it's almost unrecognisable. Incidents in those games that may at the very most draw a free kick would now see players taking a 3-4 week holiday. Bumps like Maxwell's would happen about 20 times without an eyebrow raised. It would seem that the governing body's cynical attempt to make the game more firendly to Mothers in order to let their child participate in junior football rather than take up soccer or basketball is killing the very fabric of what has been built up for some 150 years. It takes courage to play football, it's a brutal game and we still see some horrific injuries due to the high-speed physical impact. But at the same time, we also see players getting 25 easy kicks off the half-back line without having an opponent and barely a fingernail touching them the whole game. That's not how we want to see the game played, otherwise me might as well be watching glorified circle work.