Head-high and umpire contact to attract harsher penalties

The AFL Commission has approved a raft of recommendations for the match review and tribunal guidelines to be implemented for season 2022.

Most significantly, head-high contact will have an even stricter interpretation attached to it as concussion continues to be a red-button issue in contact sports around the world.

From next season, the potential to cause injury in certain circumstances must be factored into the determination of the impact, rather than “strong consideration” being given to it.

Toby Greene catches Patrick Dangerfield high as he tries to fend off a tackle.Credit:Getty Images

“Careless or intentional forceful front-on conduct, or rough conduct [high bumps], where high contact has been made, and that has the potential to cause injury, will usually be classified as either medium, high or severe impact [i.e. not low impact] even though the extent of the actual physical impact may be low [e.g. the victim player has suffered no apparent injury],” an AFL media release read.

“This reflects the approach that currently applies to the impact determination for strikes.

“The result of this change will be that, where there is careless conduct that is high contact and has the potential to cause injury, a medium impact classification will usually apply, and a one-match suspension will be the minimum sanction applied.”

The league is also looking to apply harsher penalties on players who make contact with umpires – just two months after GWS star Toby Greene copped six weeks for his altercation with umpire Matt Stevic in the Giants’ elimination final against Sydney in Tasmania.

“The AFL and AFLW regulations have been amended to require the tribunal to have regard to the number of elements of the offence [aggressive, forceful, demonstrative and/or disrespectful], which are established in determining the sanction for intentional contact with an umpire, with the result that the more elements that are present, the harsher the sanction that may be imposed,” the release stated.

“Previously, the AFL and AFLW regulations provided that contact with an umpire that is aggressive, forceful, demonstrative or disrespectful will be deemed intentional and the player will be directly referred to the tribunal with no further guidance included as to the sanction that should be imposed.”

Players may now also be charged with making careless contact with an umpire by holding, as well as pushing, an opponent into an umpire.

Meanwhile, the threshold for the fixed financial sanction for tripping has also been lowered.

“It is open to the MRO to charge a player with tripping where it is satisfied that a reportable offence was committed, replacing the requirement that the MRO be satisfied that the intention was to commit an act constituting a reportable offence [i.e. a careless trip is now sanctionable when previously it was not],” the statement read.

“Where minor contact is made [in addition to where no contact is made), the MRO can charge a player with an attempt to trip.”

In other changes, the tribunal has been reduced from four people to three people (the chairperson and a two-member jury), who will be responsible for determining decisions.

Jeff Gleeson QC has been appointed chairperson and Renee Enbom QC has been appointed deputy chairperson, and she will also chair the AFLW tribunal. They replace outgoing chairmen David Jones and Ross Howie SC.

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