I HAVE yet to cross paths with Fremantle's Hayden Ballantyne.
However, I know plenty about him and the way he carries himself on the footy field.
My teammate Scott McMahon has had more of an up close and personal relationship with him given he usually gets the job to stop him when we play the Dockers.
After every game against Fremantle, Scott has a story about Ballantyne, and who he sledged and niggled.
Apparently, he normally targets other players more than his direct opponent, something Scott is thankful for I'm sure.
It is similar to the way our assistant coach Brett Allison used to be when he played for North Melbourne all those years ago.
"'Fruity", as he is affectionately known, made a habit of niggling opposition defenders who lined up on Wayne Carey.
In Carey's book, he describes Allison as a "chirpy little guy who always had a grin on his face".
Commenting on Allison's persistent sledging, Carey said: "That was great for me. It was funny, it made me feel good and it got under the other bloke's skin. You would be surprised how much it helped. Your opponent is thinking he's taken on two opponents."
I took the opportunity to speak with Allison this week to ask what his motivation was.
"The reason I did it was to get under the skin of the opposition," Allison said.
"We had some pretty powerful key forwards at the time and I knew the more I could engage their opponents and get them concentrating on me, the less they'd pay attention to Wayne Carey, John Longmire and Corey McKernan.
"If I could get them fighting with me, it might take their focus off their job of trying to stop our blokes kicking goals," he said.
But Allison was quick to point out the difference in the way he went about it.
"The way I used it compared with the way Hayden's using it at the moment is massively different.
"I did it to help out other players. It wasn't a tactic to get myself into the game or win free kick."
My chief pest is Steven Milne from St Kilda.
It must be "small man syndrome" or something.
These little blokes trying to claim their share of the turf by terrorising anybody in their way.
Milne is very good at sledging and quick-witted — something I'm not.
Although I must admit Milne has taught me to go into a game with some material just in case I need to pull it out.
It didn't surprise me to see him get to Mick Malthouse a few years back.
From a North Melbourne perspective, opposition clubs might class former teammate Daniel Pratt a pest.
He wasn't as much talk, more action and would constantly bump his opponent from first whistle to the last.
This included elbows in the ribs and repeated physicality to wear them down.
I loved having Pratty on the team because it is a defender's job not to give their opponent any space to kick goals or create them.
Pratty has definitely passed some hints onto Scott Thompson. I'm sure you all remember the Barry Hall incident.
Being a forward, I have encountered niggling defenders who don't give you an inch.
I warn them that if they want to play this way and elbow and bump constantly, then I'll join in.
After that I try to run my opponent off his legs by leading all over the ground.
Over the years I've been able to build a level of fitness that allows me to run a lot of defenders off their feet. Kicking goals as a result of this usually stops the niggling.
I learned a lesson against Port Adelaide in round 22, 2009, at AAMI Stadium.
I was playing forward and my opponent Alipate Carlisle started to carry on a bit.
I thought I could get away with a little left jab to his chin, but as I made contact I heard a whistle go.
The umpire came running towards me and I knew I was gone.
It didn't help that three different camera angles caught my undisciplined act and I was suspended for two weeks. So I know exactly how Matthew Scarlett felt and I know how Paul Chapman would be feeling too.
He was hit behind play by Ballantyne and looked to be in all sorts of trouble as he keeled over in the middle of the ground.
I strongly believe off-the-ball incidents should carry much heavier penalties.
The AFL should introduce a rule which adds 50 per cent to the penalty for such incidents.
Cheap shots like that aren't good for our game; if a player is going to make contact with someone they should do it front-on.