Geelong and Fremantle will miss key players after attempts at bumps landed head-high clashes during round two matches.
To bump or not to bump?
That is the question for Geelong coach Chris Scott as he struggles to understand how to avoid head-high hits in the whatever-it-takes mentality of the AFL.
Scott will lose onballer Taylor Hunt for Saturday night’s blockbuster against Collingwood after he accepted a one-week penalty for contact to the head of Brisbane’s Daniel Rich.
It’s a fate that Fremantle’s Nathan Fyfe has also fallen foul of in round two.
Brownlow fancy Fyfe will miss a shot at the coveted medal after he accepted a two-week ban for a head knock on Gold Coast’s Michael Rischitelli.
Scott said he’d be seeking advice on how to best help his players avoid head-high hits and the punishment that now follows.
He said Hunt was being “punished for bad luck” but the Cats had no alternative but to accept it and get better at avoiding suspensions.
“This one falls into the category of us accepting the penalty because the odds are stacked against you,” Scott said on Tuesday.
“The way it’s interpreted now is if you go to block an opposition player, even if you have no alternative, you’re liable for any head coach.
“It’s a tough one to coach.”
The 2011 premiership coach said the awful case of NRL player Alex McKinnon’s broken neck was a “sobering reminder” of life being bigger than sport.
“The reality is the risk is inherent in all of our contact sports,” he said.
“We support the lawmakers in working as hard as they possibly can to reduce the likelihood of these things.”
McKinnon remains in hospital with a serious spinal injury after a three-way tackle gone wrong.
But Scott dismissed suggestions it could lead to the end of the bump – at least at Geelong.
“When your teammate has the ball and is being chased by an opposition player within five metres, you have an obligation to get in the way,” he said.
“We think Taylor did absolutely everything he could to avoid breaking the rules.”
Fremantle coach Ross Lyon is also counting the cost of a key player’s suspension.
Fyfe bumped Rischitelli, resulting in an accidental clash of heads and both players were forced from the field with gashes.
The match review panel deemed Fyfe responsible because he chose to bump instead of tackle.
“There wasn’t any real intention with Nathan. But the reality is there’s a rule, and there’s an action that he’s done,” Lyon said.
Zac Dawson will also miss Fremantle’s trip back to the MCG for the grand final re-match after he accepted a tripping charge and a one-match suspension.