ESSENDON defender Dustin Fletcher's career would have been cut short a long time ago had he been playing country or metropolitan football.
If playing footy at these levels, Fletcher would have been blacklisted from playing again.
Given a life ban.
The AFL Victoria ruling is tough.
Under AFL Victoria law, players are automatically deregistered and banned for life if they accumulate a combined 16 matches or more in suspensions in a football career after 16 years of age.
Fletcher accepted a two-week ban this week for a head-high bump to take his career suspension tally to 20 games.
The state governing body clearly outlines its rule is for a duty of care to all players and officials.
It wipes out those who might be considered thugs.
But is it right to ban a rough player for life?
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There is too much disparity between the AFL tribunal's points system and the game's state disciplinary actions.
In the past five years, Sebastopol's Chris Wilkinson and Buninyong's Ash Coulthard have each been banned from involvement in football all together.
They cannot coach. They cannot help manage teams.
The AFL needs to make a stronger statement on what is acceptable on the football fieldat the elite level where players are role models.
However, state bodies should also consider alternatives, like an automatic two-year ban when a player has tallied 16 games in suspensions.
A couple of years away from the game completely - depriving footballers of what they want most - still sends a message.
It also allows a chance for players to prove their games can be rehabilitated and lose the white-line fever.
But country clubs still have to want to let them back on the field, too.
Under AFL Victoria rules, should Fletcher or Gold Coast serial offender Campbell Brown (28 games) want to play country football, their AFL suspension records would be halved.
It still adds up.
Four-time All-Australian Barry Hall, now playing for Riddell District club Broadford, moved close to a life ban after a striking charge last month. His 26 weeks' suspension in the AFL had been halved to 13.
St Kilda tagger Steve Baker (28 AFL games), now playing for Sorrento, managed to overturn a lifetime ban in April for striking an opponent during a practice match.
Former Cat David Clarke was found guilty of having deliberately tripped an umpire in the Geelong Football League last year.
He bent down behind an umpire that was running backwards and was dealt a 15-game ban. His priors took him up to 20 matches.
It is a stark contrast to the AFL.
Fletcher will return for the Bombers' final home-and-away clash, a blockbuster under lights at the MCG against Richmond.
If he plays, the veteran defender will break Simon Madden's club record for all-time games played for Essendon, clocking up 379 matches in what might be his last AFL appearance (finals matches will be a bonus).
He holds the AFL record for the most times found guilty by the AFL tribunal, chalking up 16 times and 20 games banned, including his latest two-game suspension.
Despite this, he will be able to bow out on his terms - whenever that might be.