North Melbourne coach Brad Scott has accused AFL critics of unfairly making Lindsay Thomas the poster boy of the high-contact free kick controversy.
Scott said on Monday night it was an AFL-wide issue, not one surrounding any individual player.
He also admitted that the Kangaroos decided a few years ago to not only train their players to tackle properly, but also to try to draw high free kicks where possible.
The issue flared again during Friday night’s loss to Sydney when Thomas was paid two free kicks in the first half for high contact.
In the second incident, Thomas clearly maximised his chances of receiving the free.
After defending Thomas over the weekend, Scott said on Monday night that the forward had only received two free kicks all season for high contact before the Swans match.
“Somehow he’s the poster boy for so-called shrugging or ducking in the tackle,” Scott told FoxSport’s On The Couch.
“I just told Lindsay to stay strong and listen to the people who have his best interests at heart.
“There are always going to be people who are going to single him out for whatever reason.”
Scott also strongly defended Thomas’ character in the wake of the criticism.
“He gets unfairly criticised in my view – he is a terrific story – where Lindsay might be with his life, I shudder to think, if it wasn’t for AFL football,” Scott said.
The North coach said he did not like players trying to accentuate high contact, but added it was becoming more prevalent because the AFL remains determined to protect the head in its rules.
“The AFL have taken a stance that we’re going to protect the head at all costs,” he said.
“If the tackle rides high, we’re going to pay it.”
Scott said North went to the AFL a few seasons ago after they gave up a large number of free kicks for high contact in a Perth game against West Coast.
They were told the rules were applied correctly in the match.
“We decided then and there that if you can’t beat them, join them,” Scott said.
“This is not a Lindsay Thomas issue – this is an AFL issue.
“We train both sides of it … the players who are very good at drawing the high contact, we use them as crash test dummies, if you like, to make sure the others are going low and can work on their technique.”
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley also said on Monday night that it is up to players to tackle better.
“I think we get caught up in the wrong debate,” Buckley told AFL360.
“If you’re a good tackler, you’ll read those cues, you’ll know those players, you’ll get lower and you’ll be rewarded.”