There’s no doubting staging is detrimental to the optics of our great game.
Take soccer for instance, staging is completely out of hand. It’s so bad it turns people away from the world game, and stains its reputation.
There’s substantially more contact in Aussie Rules than soccer, and we are a long way from heading down that path. But it has to start somewhere.
Staging is seeping into our great game. It’s addictive. You stage, get a free kick, kick a goal, help win the game for your team. All that comes your way in return is a slap on the wrist, or in some cases nothing. Why wouldn’t you do it? And when you get rewarded for it, why not again? After all, we’ve seen players and clubs do much worse to try and win games of AFL football.
Soft fines that struggle to make a dent in player’s pocket won’t cut it. The AFL needs to take hardline stance and stamp staging out.
Suspensions are the answer.
Money is dispensable, it will always be there. Games of AFL won’t.
The bold and harsh statement of a suspension would eradicate staging almost instantly. It may be a harsh price to pay, but one or two players missing a week of football is insignificant when contrasted with the greater good of our game.
If you’re still skeptical, ask yourself this. Would you prefer to see a Tom Papley type miss one week, or see players taking dives regularly?
The most recent staging incident which has spurred strong discussion concerns GWS tough-nut Callan Ward. He took contact but overplayed it and was awarded a contentious free kick, with which he kicked the match-winning goal.
Ward spun dramatically after a standard bump from Shaun McKernan
When asked about the incident in the rooms after the game – live on-air on Channel Seven – Ward straight-batted it with a cheeky smirk. “I thought I played it pretty well, I didn’t play for it, but I knew the contact was coming.”
Whether we like it or not, players will always be trying to gain an advantage and win free kicks. The Ward incident was tough to adjudicate, because he didn’t play for contact that wasn’t there or completely overreact. He copped a fair bump, just exaggerated the impact.
Exaggerate is a key word, because the rulings come down to the finer details.
Ward escaped sanction from the AFL, on the grounds of not ‘excessively exaggerating’. His actions were undesirable, but tolerable.
It’s incidents like Tom Papley’s days earlier that can’t be tolerated. In case you missed it, Papley leapt for a mark and there was minor contact with his lower back, he ended up flying metres forward with his arms and legs flapping. Staging doesn’t get more blatant.
Papley was deemed to ‘excessively exaggerate’ and received a $500 fine from the AFL for his actions, the equivalent of a $1000 fine pre-COVID-19.
The first player to be sanctioned for staging was Josh Green in 2018. Since then, Green and five others including Papley, have been sanctioned with $1000 fines (or it’s COVID-19 equivalent) on the grounds of ‘excessively exaggerating’. That simply won’t cut it.
The AFL have been issuing fines for three years now, and the issue is as prevalent as it’s ever been. Fines aren’t eradicating staging, nor will they.
Players who ‘exaggerate’, such as Ward, deserve a fine at the very least. Players who ‘excessively exaggerate’, such as Papley, deserve a one week suspension.
The AFL has to make a bold and harsh statement, for the greater good of our game.