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AFL defends call to fine Burgoyne as head trauma debate intensifies

Langford’s was graded careless, medium impact and high contact. Sheed’s strike near a boundary throw-in on Wills was graded as intentional, low impact and body contact.

When asked if it was wrong to assume the guideline change was going to result in more suspensions for dangerous tackles, Christian said Burgoyne’s tackle on James Rowbottom was not serious enough for such a penalty.

Match review officer Michael Christian.

Match review officer Michael Christian.Credit:Justin McManus

“In the Shaun Burgoyne tackle on James Rowbottom certainly potential to cause more serious injury was applied,” Christian said.

“In terms of the tackle itself … the players were in a near stationary position and didn’t believe the degree of rotation and the force of the tackle warranted any further higher grading from an impact standpoint.”

The change to the tribunal guidelines for dangerous tackles came directly after another ugly tackle from the Hawks veteran.

He was fined for that tackle on Patrick Dangerfield but the AFL made it clear this was unlikely to be the case going forward, meaning Sunday’s fine for Burgoyne’s second tackle has raised eyebrows.

“It has become obvious that the framework in which the MRO works relating to dangerous tackles requires strengthening,” AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said in June.

“We want to be clear: protection of the head is our highest priority and we want all players at all levels and age groups to better understand that these tackles shouldn’t be part of our game.

“Dangerous tackles have the potential to cause head injuries, and it is essential that this is taken into account when assessing an incident under the AFL tribunal guidelines.”

Meanwhile, the MRO assessed McStay’s bump as forceful, front-on contact that was careless, high impact and high contact.

“In terms of the impact [of McStay’s bump] … a range of things were taken into account, including the visual look. Also the medical report, the impact on the player and also applying potential to cause [injury],” Christian said.

McStay’s side cannoned into the top of Jetta’s head as the Melbourne defender bent over to pick up the ball during the second quarter of the Lions’ narrow win on Sunday.

North Melbourne premiership player David King, who has consistently advocated for the AFL to be tougher on head-high contact, regardless of injury outcome, said the game had “totally lost control of anything related to the head”.


“Anything that can possibly cause head trauma, not [just] concussion, we have to stamp out of the game,” he said on Fox Footy of the Burgoyne tackle.

On the McStay bump he said: “That is millimetres from a wheelchair.

“Top of the head, the neck gets compressed [and] you’re in all sorts of problems.

“What are we waiting for with this stuff?”

There were also fines offered for other incidents including to Essendon’s Zach Merrett and Melbourne’s Kysiah Pickett for dangerous tackles in their sides games.

An incident between Essendon’s Jacob Townsend and Adelaide’s Matt Crouch, where the two clashed heads and drew blood, was assessed but Christian said it did not constitute a report.

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