The background to today’s commentary on the
future of the much-loved but often-maligned hip and shoulder is of course Blake
Caracella’s serious neck injury from Saturday night.

With an injury of that seriousness in the
back of match review panel’s mind, it’s understandable they were a little more
sensitive than usual to rough contact come Monday morning’s tape viewings. The
big losers were Gary Ablett and Jamie Charman, who were both charged for
incidents which many believe would have gone unnoticed in times past.

Last night, Ablett was let off with a
reprimand but Charman’s one game suspension will stand, not because Ablett’s bump
was less serious than Charman’s, rather Geelong decided to confront
the AFL and fight for its man.

Indeed, the different outcomes to those
cases are indicative of the confusion surrounding the issue. The match review
panel does one thing, the tribunal reverses it. Players are not sure what’s
acceptable and what’s not. This confusion is well illustrated by the reaction
to the Ablett decision.

Writing in this morning’s Herald Sun, Mike Sheahan argues that the
tribunal has helped secure the future of the side bump: “The message to the (match review) panel
was clear: Don’t attempt to change the culture of the game by stealth,” Sheahan
wrote, implying there was an agenda to outlaw the side-bump. Also in the Hun, Bruce Matthews wrote: “Football’s
most contentious issue – the bump – survived a critical test case last night
when Geelong has a victory at the AFL tribunal.”

Let’s head north for a moment. As you might
guess, the mood is less optimistic.

Lions captain Michael Voss told The Age:
“… I thought (Charman’s bump) was a pretty legitimate hip and shoulder, but
what they’re pretty much saying, the AFL, or the rules committee if you want to call it that, is that you can’t
hip and shoulder any more. It seems to have gone out of the game, which is a
tragedy.”

We can expect this confusion to persist
until the AFL makes a clear statement in either direction.

Peter Fray

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