The heated debate over the sling tackle took another twist on Monday when AFL football chief Mark Evans admitted the match review panel (MRP) had “got it wrong” in failing to cite Port Adelaide’s Jay Schulz.
The Power forward escaped sanction for a tackle that left Sydney’s Ted Richards unconscious two weeks after Bryce Gibbs was outed for two games for a similar tackle on Schulz’s teammate Robbie Gray.
On a day when Melbourne’s Jeremy Howe was absolved of any blame for knocking Essendon’s Alex Browne out in a tackle, Evans came out and said the MRP should have taken the heat out of the debate by banning Schulz.
“It’s caused us a deal of concern on reflection over the last week,” Evans told the league’s website.
“While last week I accepted the MRP’s determination on some of the differences, particularly between the Gibbs tackle and the Schulz tackle, I don’t think we’ve processed that one correctly.
“What we should have focused on was the fact that Ted Richards’ arms were pinned, he was in a very vulnerable position and he was taken to ground with some force.
“We think that, on reflection, he should have been charged with rough conduct very similar to the way that Gibbs was charged.
“I’ve instructed the MRP today that we should have taken greater consideration to where a player’s arms have been pinned and he’s been rotated towards the ground the way that (Schulz) was. We need to be far more protective of players’ heads.”
Evans spoke just hours after the MRP handed down its findings from an eventful round of football.
In the major storylines, Geelong skipper Joel Selwood was slapped with a one-match ban, while Fremantle star Nat Fyfe remained in the running for the Brownlow Medal after escaping with a fine.
Selwood was charged with engaging in rough conduct for his chicken-wing tackle on North Melbourne’s Sam Wright, which the MRP deemed intentional conduct with medium impact to the body.
Selwood risks a two-week suspension if he contests the sanction or can miss this week’s match against the Western Bulldogs if he enters an early guilty plea.
Fyfe was also charged with rough conduct after his forearm made contact with Taylor Duryea’s face in the Dockers’ heavy loss to the Hawks in Launceston.
With a suspension, the raging Brownlow Medal favourite would have been ineligible to win the game’s highest honour, as he was last year when he finished second in the count.
Former Hawthorn skipper Sam Mitchell courted controversy when he collided with Fyfe in similar fashion to an incident involving Adelaide’s Taylor Walker earlier this season.
Mitchell escaped sanction for his knee to Walker’s thigh but the MRP took a dim view of Sunday’s action, charging the Hawk with kneeing Fyfe, which attracts a $1000 fine with an early plea.
Collingwood youngster Taylor Adams was charged with kneeing Port Adelaide’s Justin Westhoff, with an existing poor record meaning he cannot reduce the length of his two-match ban with an early plea.
Richmond’s Tyrone Vickery was charged with engaging in rough conduct, and offered a two-game ban, after his high block caught Carlton defender Michael Jamison unawares and resulted in him being subbed out.
North Melbourne forward Drew Petrie was the only other player to be offered a suspension after the big Roo was charged with striking Geelong’s Andrew Mackie.
He can accept a one-game ban or risk two if he challenges.