The match review system is broken. When will the AFL fix it?


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However, what’s being dished up from AFL headquarters when it comes to the match review process is simply inadequate.

I’ve got nothing against Michael Christian personally, far from it.

But the inconsistency we’ve seen this season has ensured there’s now little trust in the system that decides who is suspended, who is fined and who has no case to answer.

Is “Chrisso” a sort of spokesman for others at the AFL?

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The whole idea of having a single match review officer was to eradicate the different interpretations from match review panels made up of different people each week.

Instead, in many ways, the system has become harder to comprehend.

If we as commentators and so-called experts are finding it tough to understand the various rulings, then what hope do the fans have?

From week to week, it’s a lottery.

And in the past fortnight, especially, if you’re one of the stars of the game the odds are definitely in your favour.

Richmond were right to be upset at what happened to ruckman Ivan Soldo, both at match review level and then at the tribunal.

How that was so different to the cases of Gary Ablett and Nat Fyfe, I’m not sure. Yes, theirs were in the play, but Soldo had just a split second to react.

I know Christian gave Ablett a suspension the first time before it was overturned by the tribunal, but what about the second case?

He was either gun shy – or told to be. The difference in force was minimal, if at all, and the action itself looked worse the second time around.

Then you have Fyfe, whose elbow on Tom Lynch had both Ablett and Soldo covered in terms of severity, yet he still avoided suspension.

Why in the case of Ablett and Fyfe, did Christian not use the provision for “potential to cause injury”? Because an elbow to the head can do a whole lot of damage if it gets you in the right spot.

The application of this provision is inconsistent and undeniably has favoured certain players.

Steve Hocking said earlier in the week that the great players don’t get protection, but I’m not sure many in footy truly believe that.

If you’ve got a Brownlow or a few All-Australians to your name, it seems to affect the way you are dealt with. That’s the lay of the land.

The fact that the weighting of suspensions is so much about the outcome is also problematic.

Some guys have hard heads, some don’t. You can hit a player in one spot, and he’ll be fine, but a few millimetres away and he has concussion or a broken jaw.

Still, that’s another issue altogether and would take a much bigger overhaul of the system.

Right now, the solution is a fairly simple one.

It was the AFL that said it wanted to crack down on deliberate gut and jumper punches, so why are we all of a sudden letting raised elbows go almost unpunished?

If we want to stamp elbowing out of the game, then make sure players are rubbed out for doing it. Every time.

These issues aren’t entirely new. Whatever system we have will cause plenty of debate because not everything is black and white.

But we can do better. The AFL can also be more transparent.

Whether it be the match review process, an umpire’s decision, or something like Dane Rampe climbing the goalpost, it’s OK to get things wrong.

But just admit it.

Let’s just hope one of these deplorable decisions doesn’t cost a team a place in the top four or top eight and doesn’t make for a double standard that ruins a player’s September.

Two-time AFL premiership captain and columnist for The Age.

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