Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson strongly backs an AFL rethink of free kicks for high contact, saying the present situation is far too dangerous.
Clarkson has added his considerable influence to the debate after Hawks first-gamer Kade Stewart drew a free for high contact in the last quarter of Saturday’s 18-point win over Melbourne at the MCG.
While the incident did not have a huge bearing on the 11.16 (82) to 10.4 (64) win – Stewart kicked a behind from his set shot – it again highlighted the need to look at how the game polices high contact.
The issue flared after a couple of incidents during Sydney’s win over North Melbourne last weekend, with rival coaches John Longmire and Brad Scott calling for a review.
“At the moment players are using their heads as an opportunity to win a free kick and that is what’s dangerous – very, very dangerous,” four-time premiership coach Clarkson said.
“We’re happy that (Stewart) got the free kick, according to the rules at the present time, but I’d like to see them changed and I reckon there’s a fair few coaches that would as well.”
At the moment, the AFL is adamant the head is sacrosanct, but Clarkson and others want the umpires to have some leeway when players clearly play for high frees.
“(The AFL) will need to go through all their protocols – they move slower than government – but I hope it will be done at the end of the year,” Clarkson said.
Otherwise, Clarkson was pleased his team outlasted a strong challenge from the Demons.
The Hawks kicked the only three goals of the last quarter after Melbourne led by nine points late in the third term.
Radio commentator Wayne Carey gave all his game votes to Melbourne players, with midfielders Dom Tyson and Bernie Vince outstanding in the wet, gloomy conditions.
The Hawks, again, were able to find a way.
They now have a 13-game winning streak over Melbourne, dating to 2006.
During that time, including caretakers, the Demons have gone through seven senior coaches.
Significantly, Hawthorn won the tackle count 108-68 in the tough conditions, with Cyril Rioli laying nine alone in the last quarter.
Vince’s opponent Sam Mitchell and Josh Gibson, in his 200th game, also impressed.
“They have another level to go to again, I’m sure, and Clarko – I don’t know whether he’d say it – but I don’t think they played super well,” Melbourne coach Paul Roos said.
“From our point of view, where we’re at, it’s a pleasing effort and we took it up to them.
“They were just too good.”