AFL’s red card alternative revealed
AFL umpires will be urged to pay more free kicks for tummy punches and niggling tactics under the league's bid to crackdown on more serious offences.
The AFL Commission on Monday approved a suite of changes including a crackdown on studs-up marking and a new fines category for strikes that are not forceful enough to be worthy of suspension.
But instead of introducing a red card system that was at one stage being pushed, it hopes more free kicks for niggling tactics will stop some situations from escalating.
Under the current rules players are often fined for stomach punches off the ball or around stoppages but players are not penalised with free kicks.
It means coaches do not try to eliminate those actions from their players because it does not cost them on-field.
The AFL believes if umpires are encouraged to pay free kicks early for blocks and shoves and punches that are not forceful enough for a report, they will quickly be coached out of the game.
The AFL's hope is that it might also stop players retaliating in the manner of Andrew Gaff, who had his run checked by opponent Andrew Brayshaw several times before his king hit.
It would seem unreasonable to place any blame on Brayshaw for Gaff's actions but the league stopped short of introducing a red card despite some public support.
The league will also introduce strict liability for head high contact in bumps after Hawthorn's Ryan Burton escaped penalty for the bump that knocked out North Melbourne's Shaun Higgins.
The AFL has previously had strict liability for bumps but pulled back from that approach in 2014 after Nathan Fyfe was suspended for rough conduct after an incident with Michael Rischitelli.
That incident involved an accidental head clash in an otherwise fair bump, but Fyfe was suspended.
It means players will need to be more cautious when bumping because even accidental head clashes could lead to suspensions next year.
Intentional head high strikes of a high (but not severe) force will next year be awarded three-week suspensions rather than referred to the AFL tribunal.
The league often fined players for low-level strikes without real force under the "misconduct" clause this year but next year it will be under a specific striking clause.