Senior coaches John Worsfold and Chris Fagan have backed the AFL’s attempt to stamp out sling tackles and protect players’ heads by tightening the competition’s dangerous tackle guidelines.
The league’s move follows public outcry over Hawthorn veteran Shaun Burgoyne escaping suspension for dumping opponent Patrick Dangerfield into the turf with a sling tackle last Friday night.
Burgoyne was let off with a $1000 fine for rough conduct because Dangerfield avoided injury in the incident.
The AFL ticked off the ruling on Monday but admitted it exposed a flaw in the guidelines laid out for match review officer Michael Christian.
An immediate change will give Christian power to consider the potential for all dangerous tackles to cause injury when grading them from round three onwards.
Previously the MRO could only consider the potential for injury when assessing spear tackles and driving tackles.
“If you choose to lay a dangerous tackle it’s going to be captured under these new guidelines,” AFL football operations boss Steve Hocking said.
“We want to be clear – protection to the head is our highest priority.
“We want all players at all levels and all age groups to understand these tackles shouldn’t be part of our game.”
Christian’s grading of Burgoyne’s tackle as careless conduct, low impact and high contact resulted in a financial sanction for rough conduct rather than suspension.
But that didn’t sit well with Brisbane coach Fagan, who knows Burgoyne well from their time together at Hawthorn.
“I don’t think he (Burgoyne) realised that Danger had lost the ball but when I looked at it I thought that should get a week (suspension),” Fagan told Fox Footy.
“That was a dangerous tackle. That’s the sort of thing we’re trying to stop.
“We’re trying to prevent head injuries and I think the AFL have done the right thing today.”
Essendon coach Worsfold agrees and believes players will have no trouble adjusting to the change.
“We all understand that you can lay a strong, aggressive tackle, but the last action to drive them into the ground is fraught with risk and danger for the player concerned,” Worsfold told Fox Footy.
“We need to show that we’re strong about outlawing that.
“Once players know that’s likely to get a suspension they learn very quickly and adapt very quickly.”
Burgoyne, 37, is free to play for the Hawks against Richmond at the MCG on Thursday night.
The AFL has halved fines in 2020 because of league-wide player salary cuts, meaning Burgoyne will pay $500.