Dean Rioli; Life ban an overreach by the AFL
While I understand that rule changes can quite often improve our game and are part of the evolution of the sport, there’s one very average law that seems to have flown under the media’s radar and threatens the well-being of our sport at a grass roots level.
The AFL’s Deregistration Policy is ill-conceived and should be reviewed immediately.
While it’s barely raised a ripple in the upper echelons of the AFL administration, it’s a huge topic among local football communities right across the country and it does not seem fair to players whose natural game is to attack the footy with intensity and ferocity.
I’ve always supported the notion of wiping out so-called “thugs” from our game so it is safe for everyone to compete without fear of being unnecessarily hurt. But Aussie Rules is a contact sport where coaches, players and spectators demand that those who run onto the field never take a backward step from a contest.
Under the current rules, there are some players who face life bans and if they were to get another suspension for the most minor of indiscretions, their careers would be over. Not to mention the problems that throws up for clubs.
Under the policy, any player who accumulates a total of at least 16 weeks of suspensions over the course of his/her career will be automatically deregistered from the AFL and banned for life.
A deregistered player may apply for an exemption to re-register, or appeal the deregistration under the appropriate laws of the league, but only one request can be made. Should a player be exempted and re-registered, any further suspension would result in permanent, irrevocable life ban.
Another crazy thing about this is that when these laws were introduced in 2011, they were retrospective, which meant that some players started with a clean slate yet others did not.
Most players who had been playing the game for many years had naturally accumulated anywhere from between six to 12 weeks. They were immediately behind the eight ball when this law came in, and many strong local competitions like the one I’m involved in the NT have former AFL players who have had long and illustrious careers.
They were at an immediate disadvantage once the law came in.
I know one player in the NTFL who was given a week suspension for urinating in a huddle, two weeks for a tripping charge and two weeks for a bump which caused an accidental head clash which was labelled rough conduct. He’s now well on the way to a life ban!
I don’t totally disagree with the concept. Any player who reaches 10 weeks needs to have their tribunal record reviewed. Only suspensions for anything that is “intentional” “high” or “striking” should be added up and considered.
I know of two people who have been deregistered and I will agree that in their cases it is for the best of the game.
The way the tribunals in our competitions hand out punishments does not give the players an incentive to defend themselves. For example, if a player is found to be guilty of an offence by the Match Review Panel, the player is given a sentence but with an early guilty plea that player can receive a lesser sentence.
On the other hand, if the player chooses to defend their innocence and loses the hearing they are given more weeks than they were first handed down. So players with a history of offences are likely to just accept the lower sentence because they are often found guilty because they have a previous record.
We now have the situation where former AFL players Steven Baker, Daniel Motlop and Darryl White all face the threat of being banned from football for life. It would mean they would also be banned from coaching of any team and it would be a shame that the knowledge they have gained during their careers could not be shared with the up and coming talent.
The other side of the argument would be that it is entirely their fault for getting reported so many times, but if you look at someone like Darryl White who has played over 500 senior games in his career, of course he is going to cop weeks for being reckless at times.
One size does not fit all. The rule can be changed to protect the careers of hard at the ball players while still weeding out those who could be described as “thugs.”