AFL grand finals have provided some of the game’s greatest highlights, but are also responsible for some of the biggest punch-ons ever seen on a football field.
Who could forget the 1989 affair between the Hawks and Geelong when Dermie and Dipper played with broken ribs and punctured lungs after altercations with the likes of Mark Yeates and Gary Ablett?
In 2004 a retiring Alastair Lynch went out swinging against Port’s Darryl Wakelin and copped a 10-match ban and $15,000 fine as a parting gift.
There was the 1945 “Bloodbath Grand Final” between South Melbourne and Carlton, which involved brawls with police and spectators, as well as players.
1990 saw Collingwood and Essendon in a heated battle for premiership glory with Gavin Brown, Terry Daniher and Derek Kickett among those to lose control.
Today, there’s a chance for things to spill over once again on the biggest day of the footy year.
Without bias, I’d have to say the reason for the heightened expectation of some ‘biffo’ is due to the unsociable way the Dockers go about their footy.
Hayden Ballantyne is an expert at getting under the skin of his opponents, just ask Matthew Scarlett and Stevie Johnson from Geelong.
But the little goal-sneak pales into insignificance compared to Ryan Crowley.
I can speak from experience after seeing what he did to Brent Harvey earlier this year and know the notorious Freo tagger will stop at nothing to nullify the influence of the man he’s matched up on.
As a result, Crowley will effectively be wearing a massive target on his back with the Hawks likely to try and protect Sam Mitchell, Isaac Smith, Luke Hodge or whichever player Ross Lyon sends him to.
The league has sent out a warning of double demerit points for any charges arising from Saturday’s clash with any fines for wrestling and melees also doubled.
But whether anyone sacrifices games next season in order to help their team win a premiership is yet to be seen.
The other possibility is for an outgoing player to do what Lynch did in 2004.
Back then, the Lions’ forward had announced his retirement and simply had nothing to lose when he went toe-to-toe with Wakelin in the goal square.
It’s because of Lynch and his actions the stricter penalties were put in place.
Then tribunal chairman Brian Collis said the severity of Lynch’s penalties were heavier than they would have been for any other game, because the grand final was the showcase event and players “ought to set an appropriate example” for young players watching the game.
Lynch received a four-match suspension for one count of striking, three matches for another striking charge, and three matches for attempted striking during the incident.
He was fined $5000 each for three attempted-striking charges and the penalty was one of the largest served on a player.
Lynch’s fine was hefty, but the 10-game suspension meant nothing to him.
There are a lot of blokes who would love to take matters into their own hands this afternoon, and many might be weighing up the risk. but like Collis I believe there a much bigger picture to consider that extend well beyond personal glory.
We have an obligation to set an example and display good sportsmanship not only throughout the year, but especially on the last Saturday in September.
No player deserves to be ‘taken out’ of the contest, king hit from behind or denied an opportunity to participate and hold the cup aloft because a player like Lynch has nothing to lose.
If Ballantyne or Crowley elect to use cheap shots and dirty tactics, then the Hawks should hit ‘em hard, but be fair about it.
- North Melbourne vice-captain Drew Petrie played his junior football with Ballarat Swans. He was drafted from North Ballarat Rebels in 2000.