Geelong's Joel Selwood should have been suspended

Whichever way you look at it, Geelong captain Joel Selwood got off very lightly indeed. Photo: Michael Wilson/AFL Photos via Getty Images
Whichever way you look at it, Geelong captain Joel Selwood got off very lightly indeed. Photo: Michael Wilson/AFL Photos via Getty Images

Geelong skipper Joel Selwood should have been suspended for two separate incidents arising from last Friday night's thriller against the Western Bulldogs.

Both were disgraceful and a blight on the game, not an example an AFL captain should be setting.

Instead, the AFL's match review officer Michael Christian hit him with a lettuce leaf by fining him a total of $3000. The charges of misconduct and engaging in rough conduct were classified as first offences, underlining the flaws within the tribunal process.

Selwood, an inspirational leader and champion midfielder, demeaned himself by resorting to those actions.

The darling of the umpires and an AFL pin-up boy, Selwood is no stranger to the tribunal, having been charged 13 times over his 323-game career.

He has been found guilty on 12 occasions, yet suspended only twice for a total of five games.

David Mackay got off, but the bump's days are numbered. Photo: Mark Brake/Getty

David Mackay got off, but the bump's days are numbered. Photo: Mark Brake/Getty


The AFL is always seeking to tweak the rules and several of these changes have not benefitted the code.

Recent moves such as the 6-6-6 rule at centre bounces have been successful, but there have been others which have altered the basic principle of the game.

No wonder the game is harder to officiate and it's difficult to blame umpires with the league constantly changing and reviewing interpretations.

The bump is clearly on life support, despite the AFL Tribunal's decision to clear Adelaide's David Mackay last week. Contact to the head is sacrosanct given all the discussion worldwide about concussion and long-lasting after-effects.

The image of a bloodied Hunter Clark with a broken jaw is not what the AFL wants to promote, but the League must not forget it is a contact sport and accidents occur. Making it a risk-free game is boring and will drive away rusted-on supporters in droves.

Several other interpretations stand out. Players are not allowed to place their hands in the back of an opposition player when going for a mark, but some of the best used their body to outmanoeuvre their opponents to take a mark or gain possession.

The interpretations on holding the ball and deliberate out of bounds are hardly clear.

As the year has progressed the ruling on holding the ball has been relaxed - often players are spun around almost twice without being penalised and more than the odd throw has been allowed, with umpires caught on the wrong side of the action.

But the most irritating part about holding the ball is rewarding players who "dwell" and lie on top of opponents, often pushing the ball underneath to draw the free kick.

The deliberate out of bounds ruling is the cause of much consternation, often leaving players bemused. At best it is inconsistent, but sometimes it borders on the ridiculous - for example when North Melbourne's Cameron Zurhaar was penalised in round eight against Collingwood after his shot for goal went off the side of his boot.

But it was not applied when it should have been late in the Adelaide-Melbourne game last month, proving costly for the Demons.

Then there is the 50-metre penalty, which can be applied for various reasons but is too harsh a price to pay for often minor indiscretions.

The player with the ball needs to be affected directly, not a player inadvertently running into a 10-metre zone or moving off the mark prematurely.


When you talk about and compare the cultures at football clubs, it often leads to an emotional, vexing discussion.

At the core of Carlton's review of its football department would be how the Blues can improve their culture and return to the powerhouse status they enjoyed in the last century.

Club great David Rhys-Jones admitted recently the Blues had a losing culture after years of failure, a far cry from when he and fellow teammates were celebrating premierships.

Speaking to past players from its successful era, Carlton built the foundations on peer group pressure and maintaining high standards which started on the training track.

They say there does not appear to enough criticism of players from teammates when they make a mistake on match-day and at training.

If skill errors are made at training, they should be pointed out immediately by senior players.

Players should not just be allowed to run through and receive a pat on the back. Criticism can be delivered in a way to elicit a positive response.

One former player referred to an example in his early days at Carlton when he learned a valuable lesson at training.

He was being lazy as he handballed using his non-preferred hand and the coach pulled him up, saying: "If you want to train here, don't do that."

Carlton's review should be wide-ranging and hopefully unlocks what has gone wrong as well as what could be done better.

The Blues' insipid performance against the Giants was further evidence of their declining fortunes.

While it is led by incoming president Luke Sayers with the support of chief executive Cain Liddle, Carlton should implement all recommendations of the three-man independent review panel without question - otherwise why have an external review?

Email: howardkotton11@gmail.com; Twitter: @hpkotton59.

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas
This story Geelong's Joel Selwood should have been suspended | Howard Kotton first appeared on The Canberra Times.