Players who choose to bump are almost certain to be suspended if they make contact with the head as the AFL tightens its rules amid heightened concussion scrutiny.
The AFL has followed through on its pledge to crackdown on head-high hits as it moves to also further protect umpires in the wake of Toby Greene’s bump on Matt Stevic.
With concussion becoming an increasing problem in the game, the league has written into the rules that the potential to cause injury must be used to determine the level of impact of any head-high hit.
It means players will almost certainly be suspended more often for dangerous high bumps, with the impact grading usually starting at medium or higher rather than low.
The lack of injury to an opponent will no longer spare the player from a tougher grading, bringing the rule in line with how striking charges are treated.
Speaking outside AFL House in November, the league’s new football boss Brad Scott warned stricter rules were on the way.
“In most instances, there is a player who is late to that contest,” Scott said.
“If you’re late and you hit the player in the head, you’re going to be in trouble. There’s broad acceptance of that among the clubs.”
Giants superstar Greene’s infamous shoulder bump on Stevic in his club’s narrow finals victory over Sydney in August cost him a six-match ban after the AFL appealed a softer penalty.
But the ramifications have extended to new match review rules around intentional umpire contact.
The AFL now requires tribunal members to note all elements of an offence, whether aggressive, forceful, demonstrative and/or disrespectful.
In simple terms: the more elements present in an incident, the stronger likelihood there will be of a harsher sanction.
Previously, if umpire contact was found to be aggressive, forceful, demonstrative or disrespectful, the act was deemed intentional and sent directly to the tribunal without guidance on a penalty.
Players may also be fined for careless contact with an umpire if they push or hold – the latter in addition to pushing – an opponent into an umpire or their direct path.
The tribunal structure has also been changed, so that a chairperson and two tribunal jury members will determine a decision.
Jeff Gleeson QC is the new tribunal chairperson, with Renee Enbom his deputy. Enbom will chair AFLW tribunal hearings for the upcoming season.
The AFL tribunal previously comprised a chairperson and a three-member jury of former players.
AFL and AFLW Tribunal amendments for 2022
- Head-high contact: The potential to cause injury must be factored into the determination of impact, a change that will likely result in more suspensions.
- Intentional umpire contact: Tribunal members are required to note whether the contact was aggressive, forceful, demonstrative and/or disrespectful. The more of these elements present, the harsher the sanction may be.
- Careless contact with an umpire: A player may be fined under this offence for pushing and/or holding an opponent directly into an umpire or their path.
- Tripping: The match review officer (MRO) can charge a player with this offence if they are satisfied a reportable offence was committed, meaning even careless acts can be reportable. Minor contact can also be deemed as an ‘attempt to trip’.
- Tribunal structure: The AFL tribunal will comprise of a chairperson and two jury members, with all three determining the tribunal’s decision. Jeff Gleeson QC has been appointed as chairperson.
- Video evidence of other incidents: Prescribed video examples in the Tribunal Guidelines must be from the previous two seasons, but the tribunal will not be bound to any previous decision from such an example. Charged players and Tribunal Counsel may seek leave to rely on video examples of incidents charged by the MRO and/or determined by the Tribunal within the same season as the relevant incident, assuming they are comparable.
2022 Tribunal/Appeal costs
Unsuccessful Tribunal: $2500 included in soft cap
Partially successful Tribunal: $2500 included in soft cap
Successful Tribunal: $5000 will be refunded
Unsuccessful appeal: $1250 included in soft cap
Successful appeal: $2500 appeal fee and $5000 tribunal fee refunded
Unsuccessful Tribunal: $10,000 (entire fee) included in soft cap
Partially successful Tribunal: $5000 included in soft cap and $5000 outside soft cap
Successful Tribunal: $10,000 will be refunded
Unsuccessful appeal: $5000 (entire fee) included in soft cap
Successful appeal: $5000 appeal fee and $10,000 tribunal fee refunded